ON the surface, it seems fairly unremarkable.
A private health insurer is trialling a health program in Queensland, to help their members gain “priority access” to see a GP.
How does it work? Simple: Medibank Private is reportedly paying administration expenses for over two-dozen doctors across Brisbane, Cairns and the Gold Coast, to guarantee same-day treatment for its members (or within 24 hours, if you call after 10am).
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Those members are then charged no out-of-pocket costs.
The program is billed as a “preventative” measure; I guess the bigger picture is that if health insurers can keep their customers healthy with regular GP visits, it will help to keep those folks out of hospital, thereby reducing the amount of hospital claims the insurer pays.
If you’re with Medibank, this is fantastic news! Especially considering they have plans to roll it out across the country if it’s successful.
To everyone else? Well, you’ll just have to suck it up and visit your doctor when you can make an appointment… Because we all know how easy that is.
Local bulk-billing doctors routinely have same-day availability, right?
Actually, no, they often don’t. I usually have to wait two or three days to get an appointment with my GP.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I have health insurance. With Medibank. So I kinda stand to gain quite a lot from this, if it takes off.
But in the grand scheme, while I can see some benefits, I think it opens up a whole can of worms in terms of all Australians having fair access to primary health care.
As GP Dr Brian Morton puts it, “the urgency and the access [in any practice] should be based on medical need.”
He says: “It should always be urgent cases with a medical need [that] get priority, not because you’re a member of a health fund and you want a script filled or a vaccination for an overseas holiday.”
I tend to agree.
The last thing I want is for Australia to embrace the kind of fundamentally unfair, two-tiered health system that plagues those living in the United States.
Then we’ll end up like this guy in the US, who was charged $55,000 for an overnight hospital stay after having an emergency appendectomy.
Seven grand bought him two hours in a recovery room.
Almost the same amount for a CT scan.
Another $5,000 to stay in a bed overnight.
And $6,400 for an ambiguous amount of ‘medical and surgical supplies’.
I never thought I’d say this, but thank God for Medicare.
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