Rebecca Gredley and Finbar O’Mallon
(Australian Associated Press)
Out of pocket health costs paid by Australian patients are at record highs.
The Department of Health figures were revealed as the federal government launched new laws to stop Medicare fraud by using data matching techniques.
Patients paid an average of $38.46 in out of pocket costs at the GP in 2018-19, a Senate committee was told on Wednesday.
Australians were also paying record out of pocket costs for specialist treatment, costing an average of $83.77 in 2018-19.
Health Department secretary Glenys Beauchamp said such costs had grown over the years.
Meanwhile, bulk billing rates are at record highs, with 86.2 per cent of GP services being bulk billed.
Private health insurance premiums were also the highest on average, according to deputy secretary Penny Shakespeare.
But she said the recent 3.25 per cent increase on April 1 was the lowest average increase in 19 years.
Draft legislation aimed at stamping out Medicare fraud was introduced to federal parliament on Wednesday.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the bill would allow data matching for Medicare compliance, but emphasised patient information wouldn’t be shared with private health insurers.
While introducing the draft laws, Mr Hunt raised the example of a patient who made a claim through the system but was actually overseas at the time of their appointment.
Labor’s health spokesman Chris Bowen said the government was “all spin” when it came to health costs and said the system was under pressure.
“What we do need is a full inquiry into private health insurance,” Mr Bowen said.
Mr Bowen also said the use of bulk billing rates data to defend the system was misleading.