Dermatology fees revealed by specialist fee transparency website

Skin cancers

By Michael Woodhead

23 Jan 2020

Out of pocket costs for dermatology procedures are revealed in the government’s new specialist fee transparency website though it does not provide data for individual practitioners.

The Medical Costs Transparency website provides broad examples of typical out-of-pocket costs for 62 procedures in 23 areas of practice, most of which are surgical procedures in areas such as obstetrics, gynaecology and orthopaedics.

In dermatology, the website provides examples of low, average and high levels of out of pocket fees that privately insured patients can expect to pay for removal of a skin lesion (MBS items 31000, 31340, 31350, 31345, 31360, 31357, 31356 and 31206) .

It says patients should expect to be out of pocket $350 for all doctor and health provider costs after government and private health insurer payments for a skin lesion removal, although 55% of patients had no gap fee.

It provides more in-depth financial information, showing that total doctor fees for skin lesion removal procedures range from $810 (low) to $2200 (high), with a typical/median fee of $1500.

With government subsidies covering $590 of the fees and private insurers typically paying $500, this leaves patients with out of pocket fees ranging from $80 to $800 (typical/median $350).

The site also shows how out of pocket fees vary between states, with skin lesion removal gap fees ranging from a median of $200 in Victoria and South Australia to $500 in NSW.

Fee transparency procedures:

  • Assisted reproductive services
  • Breast surgery
  • Cataracts
  • Dialysis
  • Digestive system
  • ENT
  • Endoscopy
  • Gynaecology
  • Cardiac
  • Hernia and appendix
  • Joint reconstructions and replacements
  • Kidney and bladder
  • Male reproductive system
  • Plastic and reconstructive surgery (medically necessary)
  • Pregnancy and birth
  • Skin
  • Sleep studies
  • Tonsils adenoids and grommets
  • Weight loss surgery

In March 2019 Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt said a website site would be developed to help patients avoid bill shock, with an initial focus on fees for gynaecology, obstetrics and cancer services.

The minister said a national searchable website for information on specialist fees would help tackle excessive out of pocket costs by empowering patients to make informed choices when selecting a doctor.

“Specialists will initially be expected to show their fees as agreed with the medical profession on the website to enable patients and GPs to consider costs when determining their choice of specialists,” said Mr Hunt.

However he added that participation by specialists would be voluntary and some specialists have since commented that they think it unlikely that many doctors will provide information about their individual fees.

The website was described as a disappointing first step by the Consumers Health Forum.

“The Medical Costs Finder website is an inadequate response to the need for an open and comprehensive presentation of individual doctor’s fees and likely out of pocket costs said CEO Leanne Wells.

“But it is a start and we hope just the first step towards a system in which all doctors’ fees are published,” she added.

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