Australia ‘lagging behind’ on Indigenous doctors
The head of the insurers’ lobby group, Private Healthcare Australia (PHA) CEO Michael Armitage, claimed some specialists would charge more if a person arrived in an “Armani suit with a chauffeur”. A less-well-dressed person would be charged less, Dr Armitage said. The CEO of a leading insurer volunteered a similar view but declined to be named. Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton said charges were meant to be based on actual costs, not whether someone looked wealthy or turned up “in stubbies and thongs”. Dr Hambleton called on the insurance industry to provide evidence so that the claims could be acted upon. End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar. “It should be stamped out,” he said. PHA’s Dr Armitage said that doctors were charging some private health insurance policy holders extra “despite our very best efforts, which include paying (treatment) providers more”. These are payments on top of the Medicare Benefits Schedule fee, on the basis that policy holders will not have an out-of-pocket cost for the treatment. For example, industry no.2 Bupa’s “Medical Gap Scheme Benefit” pays a doctor nearly $2000 towards the delivery of a baby – 184 per cent more than the MBS fee of just under $700. However, industry players say that in some instances, specialists who sign up to these “no gap” schemes still decide to charge an additional amount. In such cases, the patient doesn’t just pay the amount over and above the gap scheme benefit – they pay everything above the MBS fee. News Limited has obtained a breakdown of one insurer’s gap scheme benefits, which reveals that while it pays on average 50 per cent more than the MBS for orthopaedics, nearly 40 per cent of patients still end up with out-of-pocket costs.
She says the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association and the CPMC will work together to try to increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical specialists. The Collaboration Agreement, signed this week, will contribute to closing the gap by looking at ways to train more Indigenous medical specialists. The agreement is also a move to improve the ways medical specialists and Indigenous people work together. Professor Leslie says the deal is an important step forward. “Well, this is a landmark agreement between the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association and the Committee of Presidents of Medical Colleges, which represents the specialist medical colleges of Australia. And our aim is threefold. (First,) to close the current gap in health outcomes and life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. We also want to increase the understanding of all Australian doctors about cultural issues in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. And, thirdly, and probably most importantly, we want to increase the number of Indigenous doctors who do specialist medical education after they finish medical school.” Professor Leslie says about 175 Indigenous doctors work in Australia, mainly as general practitioners, or GPs. She says, while there is a great need in all communities for GPs, there is only a small group of Indigenous doctors in other medical specialities. That includes obstetrics, gynaecology, psychiatry and surgery. Professor Leslie says there is a need for doctors in all specialties. “Our position is that an increase in the Indigenous specialist medical workforce is important regardless of the types of specialties or the particular needs of any community.