An Australian patient has questioned a GP’s policy, claiming a doctor “changed his mind” and charged him for a consultation that was originally billed as a visit.
The patient turned to Reddit to ask if the doctor could charge for the visit.
They explained that they booked the appointment over the phone to receive a script for a sinus infection and that the practice usually issues bulk bills.
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“After they attended the appointment, they called and said the doctor had billed me even though it was a literal five-minute appointment for them to write the script,” the post reads.
“When I explained the situation I was told that billing would be at ‘doctor’s discretion’.
“Are you really allowed to change your mind after the fact?”
Other users have had different opinions on what they think is allowed.
“I’m pretty sure all billing is at the doctor’s discretion, so the receptionist most likely assumed it was bulk billing,” said one user.
Others suggested doctors should not be allowed to change their minds because of a principle known as Informed Financial Consent, described by the Australian Medical Association.
Under the AMA, a physician (or their representative) must ensure that a patient understands and agrees to the potential of the following possibilities:
- Fee for a medical service (intervention or treatment) provided by the doctor;
- costs of implantable prostheses and devices used during medical service;
- Medicare discounts and private health insurance benefits applicable to physician medical service; and
- deviating fees and costs that may arise if the planned medical service is changed for clinical reasons.
AMA President Professor Stephen Robson told 7NEWS.com.au: “The cost for GPs to provide a service has been rising for many years while Medicare funding has stagnated…as a result, patients are increasingly being asked to pay a gap. ”
Robson urged any patients who feel they have been charged a higher than expected fee to contact the practice to discuss the matter.
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Meanwhile, other Reddit users suggested that finding practices doing bulk billing in Australia is becoming increasingly difficult in general.
“Yes, I’ve found that most practices are getting out of bulk billing,” said one user.
“Many doctors now calculate everyone. Mine does, but notifies you of the change. And will still be doing short phone consultations for free scripts,” added another.
It comes as new data released last month from hundreds of Australia’s largest medical centers showed the percentage of consultations billed in bulk has fallen to an average of 61 per cent.
That’s a 12 percent drop from just two years ago.
The President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Dr. Karen Price said the results are further evidence that general practice care needs more support.
“Unless there is more investment in general practice, more and more practices will have little choice but to pass the cost on to patients,” she said.
“This can result in patients delaying or avoiding consultations with their GP and deteriorating to the point where they end up in a hospital bed.”
Some GPs have already closed their doors while others have been forced to pass on the fees to their patients.
As the situation worsens, many are speaking out and expressing concern for those who cannot afford such large upfront payments.
Other social media users have shared their stories of how much they have been charged for consultations.
A Reddit user posted his experience on the platform, claiming he was charged $80 for his 43-second telemedicine consultation with his GP.
The user said he needed a repeat of his usual script, but was shocked to realize how much the quick call set him back.
While they are expected to receive a discount for the advice, their calculations say the gap would still be significant.
“I love the convenience, but shit, that’s expensive,” they said.
https://7news.com.au/news/public-health/aussie-poses-question-about-unexpected-charge-following-gp-visit-amid-bulk-billing-crisis-c-8322437 Bulk billing crisis: Aussie questions ‘unexpected’ GP visit amid bulk billing crisis