‘Patients the losers’ despite $17m lift for ‘white elephant’ medical costs website

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said he did not expect many doctors would publish their fees on the website, which was “a complete failure” and “should be abandoned”.

“Until the website can actually give an individual patient confidence about what gap they might be facing compared with other practitioners, then it’s not going to be useful at all,” Dr Khorshid said.

Macquarie University Centre for the Health Economy director Henry Cutler said the fact participation was voluntary meant it would be “impossible for patients to determine value for money” by searching the website.

The latest official data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows Australians spent $30 billion on out-of-pocket medical costs in 2017-18.

Grattan Institute health economist Stephen Duckett said the budget provided “no real enhancement to ensure usable comparative information on all doctors will be available to the public”.

Health Minister Greg Hunt announced plans to build a medical fee transparency website detailing individual specialist fees in March 2019, to address “egregious” sums charged by some doctors, which was highlighted by patients resorting to crowdfunding websites to raise tens of thousands of dollars to pay for surgical procedures.

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Official data shows the website, which went live in December, was accessed by fewer than 10,000 Australians in the first six months.

Australian Society of Anaesthetists president Suzi Nou said Medicare and health insurer rebates had failed to keep up with rising costs, and the government should address this “rather than spending millions of dollars for a website to document just how out of touch they are”.

Dr Khorshid said private health insurance needed to be “simplified” to make it possible to easily work out what gap patients would face if they saw a particular doctor, because the fact both insurers and surgeons had multiple fees