How to Pay Less for Medical Expenses
Australia now has more bulk-billing medical clinics than ever before, however, each year Australians are still being slugged a huge $3 BILLION dollars in out of pocket medical expenses. Most of these expenses are due to specialist appointments that charge you well above the scheduled fee, and that if you have Health Insurance!
The problem with Medical Expenses are that not everyone can afford them when they need them the most. Many people are also putting off necessary procedures because of money concerns. Whilst there are lots of bulk billing Gp’s out there for normal medical appointments, there are lots of people suffering from ongoing chronic conditions that need multiple services not covered by Medicare.
Dental care is another concern with even private health cover only limiting the amount they will pay when it comes to teeth.
The Frightening Statistics on Medical Expenses:
- A quarter of patients with Breast Cancer had out of pocket expenses of more than $10,000
- One-third of patients were NOT told about their out of pocket expenses before undergoing treatment.
So how can you get all the medical care you and your family need at the lowest possible price?
Here are some solutions.
Find A Bulk Billing GP
There are great websites now such as Health Engine that will assist you in finding the nearest bulk billing GP in your area (plus you can book an appointment online!). Receptionists at Medical Clinics are there to help you understand fees and charges, so give them a ring to discuss payment options before you head to the clinic.
Of course, going up to your local hospital is always free – but this does clog up emergency services.
Some Weight Loss Surgeries Can Be Paid For By Your Super Fund
Did you know that if you have a life-threatening disease or medical problems that will affect your day to day quality of life, you can get early access to your Superannuation Fund to pay for the surgery. To get access to your Super, you will need to fill out a Centrelink application form for ‘Early Super Release’, together with a letter of support from your GP and Obesity Specialist. Once approved, it can take up to six weeks for the funds to be released to your account.
Centrelink does have eligibility criteria however it is certainly worth looking into.
Further Reading: Check out our story ‘I Got a Gastric Sleeve and Took Back My Life’
How to Save on Specialist Fees
Don’t be scared to ask your GP if they know in advance of any out of pocket costs that the specialist may charge you for. If they don’t know the answer, ask your GP for a few names so that you can ring the specialists yourself and check out the fees before making an appointment.
Note: If you are willing to travel for a procedure, you can usually get a better deal! Rural areas typically charge the most when it comes to receiving specialist care.
Tips for Getting the Best Deal with Your Specialist:
It is important to be upfront about what you can and can’t afford with the Specialist. If your specialist won’t budge on out of pocket fees and expenses, it may be worth paying that specialist for that appointment and shopping around. However, if you are in dire need of medical assistance, that isn’t always possible.
It is up to the Specialist to decide on a patient-to-patient basis whether or not to charge you above and beyond the scheduled fee.
According to the Choice.com website, a vast majority of doctors do take their patient’s financial situation into account when setting their fee.
Get on the Public Waiting List for Your Surgery
If you can afford the time, the public waiting list is a cost-effective way of getting the treatment you need without having to pay for surgery. But many people can wait years for a surgery that can affect their quality of life in between. The waiting list is different depending on where you live and what treatment is required.
Knowledge is Power:
Want to know which Surgeons in Australia only charge the scheduled fee?? Now you can.
There is now a list of all the practitioners in Australia and the amount they charge – so you can do that online!
Questions to Ask Your Specialist About Fees:
- Ask for any fees for other doctors that may be involved with your treatment such as assistant surgeons, anaesthetists,
- Ask for a quote for your surgery in writing
Check out Your Local NDIS Provider
NDIS or ‘National Disability Insurance Scheme’ provides individualised support to people with permanent and significant disabilities. It also assists the families and carers of those affected. The scheme aims to fund items that will be required for day to day living including:
- Hearing Aids
- Adjustable Beds
- Prosthetics and Artificial Limbs
- Home Modifications, Personal Care and Domestic Assistance
- Disability-related Physiotherapy, speech therapy or occupational therapy.
Check out this brochure by the Australian Department of Human Services, it has more information on applying for funding. There are eligibility criteria such as being an Australian Citizen or being aged under 65.
How to Save Money on Dental Treatment
Dental care is extremely expensive in Australia, especially if you don’t have Health Insurance. And if you need something major such as a root canal, unless you are under the age of 18, Medicare does not pay a cent in assistance.
Got Health Insurance?
If you do have health insurance, you can usually pay less if you use one of your Health Fund’s approved Dentists. To find out which Dentist is approved, pop on your health funds’ website or give them a call. Some of the approved Dentists charge no fee on top of what your fund will pay!
Make sure you check your Extras insurance to see what it will cover in relation to Dental – you may just be surprised.
But if you don’t have health insurance – you still have some options!
Option 1: Negotiate the Fee with Your Dentist
Like surgeons, Dentists are also able to set the fee that they wish. In saying that, they too need to make a living so although it is rare to have a Dentist lower their fees, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Option 2: Go Overseas to Have Major Dental Work Done
Did you know that a majority of the Dentists in Bali and Thailand are actually Australian? For the cost of a plane ticket, accommodation, and your dental work, you can still end up way ahead by traveling overseas. Plus you get to have a holiday at the same time. Choice.com.au says that travelling overseas for dental work can save you a whopping 75% on fees.
‘Dental Tourism’ is now a booming business with Medical Tourism Agencies that will assist you in finding a Dentist (or cosmetic surgeon, or even fertility treatment), and will book everything for you.
If you are considering this option, make sure you do your research online, look for reviews and ask loads of questions.
Option 3: Get on a Dental Care Plan
If Health Insurance isn’t affordable, perhaps look at getting onto a Dental Plan. You pay your yearly premium and you get up to 40% off your dental treatments. This is a relatively new initiative in Australia. Here are some of the providers:
- HBF offers a dental-only plan however it is only for residents of Western Australia.
How to Save Money on Medications
If you need access to lifesaving medication and cannot afford them, you may be able to get access to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). This scheme subsidises the price of necessary medications making them affordable. You can access the PBS scheme if you are an Australian Citizen and hold a Medicare card. A schedule of the drugs available on the PBS scheme is available on the first of every month.
- Shop at a low-cost chemist (they all differ in price)
- Buy generic prescriptions rather than name brand.
- Ask your Doctor or Specialist, if there is a cheaper medication option.
- Check with your local pharmacy regularly for a medication review. This service is free.
Medical Care is Expensive. But help is out there if you do your research and ask for a better deal.
This article is constantly updated as more information comes to hand. Please check back regularly.