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Exorbitant specialist fees in Canberra … what’s going on here?

By birder 18 July 2012 23

I needed to see a specialist (ob/gyn) last month, and the cost was $250, with medicare reimbursing only $70. That’s $180 out of pocket for a 15 minute appointment. My partner had to see a specialist (gastro) this month, and it was $325 for a 10 minute appointment! (I’m guessing that medicare will reimburse $70 also for this appointment.)

My question is, how the heck do people pay for these appointments? My partner is in school full time, so this comes straight out of savings. But what about young people with no savings, or people who are managing paycheck to paycheck? Have we just accidentally stumbled upon outrageously expensive specialists, or is this the way it works in Canberra and/or Australia?

By way of comparison, specialists in NZ were expensive but my private health insurance reimbursed me in full. In the US, I had good health coverage and I had a $50 copay for any specialist visit.

I’m just shocked at the cost for these appointments and frankly wonder how this is affordable to anyone who isn’t wealthy. Do you just skip doctor’s visits? Wait until it becomes an emergency and go to the hospital? Or am I just cheap and this isn’t seen as expensive at all?

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23 Responses to
Exorbitant specialist fees in Canberra … what’s going on here?
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frisky 2:37 pm 21 Aug 15

I decided to have gastroscopy and endoscopy as a routine check. I was offered a free initial consultation with a nurse or one with the surgeon for $450. Not a hard choice, although I would have appreciated a brief discussion about my symptoms. $450 seems outrageous for a consultation.

What really annoys me is that I have been booked into Eqinox Building with “ACTendoscopy”. They still have not reached an agreement with my Health Fund, and thus they expect me to pay an extra $500 on top of the usual $100 excess.

I am now trying to find which endoscopists work in other hospitals and have this routine examination done there. Why the hell do these endoscopists work in hospitals that are not registered with the health funds and then try to sneak the costs onto the patients.

The same happened to me two years ago for the same reason. I paid up last time but will not do so this time. I do not know whether the problem lies with Medibank Private or with Equinox. I am investigating and will update this site to reveal who is responsible for this rip-off.

wildturkeycanoe 8:43 pm 14 Jun 14

Recently I had the misfortune of doing some serious damage to my calf muscle whilst near the mall. I did the correct thing and went to the doctor’s clinic rather than the hospital [because I couldn’t walk properly and it was the closest place I could hobble to]. After the usual wait, the doctor took a look and sent me straight to the emergency department as the surgery didn’t have the right equipment to detect whether it was a total rupture or just a strain. So, I got myself to ED and waited the normal period, had it assessed and booked in for an ultrasound. So far, not a cent out of my pocket except for the crutches they sold me [which I got to keep thankfully]. Anyway, by the end of the day the results weren’t conclusive so I was referred to a specialist across the way. Apparently it was urgent I get it looked at so we went there straight away. For some reason they were closed an hour before they were supposed to so I waited till the next day. First thing next morning, I found out I couldn’t get in for another two weeks and they weren’t available that day either. I was given the number for another specialist across town and due to the fact my entire leg was so cold it was almost going blue, they took me in straight away. A quick exam revealed nothing catastrophic, but still I’d be out of action for a while and to go back if things didn’t improve in a week. The consult was to be $180 out of my pocket and if an MRI was required, who knows how many hundreds and how long the wait. Thankfully I was given a discount and we had just enough in the bank to pay it, but only received half back.
Through this whole experience, I came to realise that if there is something life-threatening like compartment syndrome or DVT [common for calf injuries], or worse things which require further testing and diagnosis by professionals, if a person doesn’t have any money to pay for these tests they’d end up possibly dead because they are too poor to get the right medical care. When health is tied to a persons financial status, it sucks to be poor. It is truly a frightening thought that lack of money can lead to your own premature death when there are readily available treatments and cures that could save your life.

aaa123 4:23 pm 14 Jun 14

PrinceOfAles said :

Now I have never seen a specialist until recently so I really don`t know how it all works but I was referred to a urologist at TCH by my GP. I`ve seen him once and it hasn`t cost me a cent. I don`t have private health insurance or a health concession card of any kind. Can anyone explain to me why it didn`t cost me anything if other people are paying $200-300 per visit to other specialists?

Because you were referred to a specialist at a public hospital. Public hospitals are mostly “free” even for outpatient services. However, not everyone can visit specialists at public hospitals due to criteria about which patients they will accept, as well as potentially even longer waiting lists than private specialists.

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