Out of pocket health costs: Government must not put this into the “too hard” basket

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

One in five Australians cite cost as a barrier to seeking health care, according to the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) in comments provided today to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee’s Inquiry into out-of-pocket expenses in Australian healthcare.

“Out-of-pocket expenses already have a significant impact on Australians seeking healthcare, and measures in the 2014-15 Federal Budget will provide a further hit to the wallets of our most vulnerable,” AHHA Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven said.

“With OECD data showing that only residents of the USA and Switzerland have higher out-of-pocket healthcare costs than Australians, the AHHA believes that the Commonwealth Government needs to do some urgent homework to ensure an evidence-based approach to improving access to affordable health services.

“The proposed GP co-payment, for example, was put forward with a political case, but little evidence. The Department of Health and the Department of Human Services are both unable to provide detailed modelling of the scheme’s impact, or data which would allow others to undertake that work.”

Ms Verhoeven also stressed the need for robust evaluation to look at the impact of budget measures on primary care, emergency department and hospital utilisation.

“Linking data across multiple systems to map interactions is challenging, but the data matching studies undertaken, for example, by the Department of Health in the Northern Territory demonstrate the value of this type of work,” Ms Verhoeven said.

“This kind of evaluation provides a holistic view of the health system, and acknowledges that decisions not based in evidence can have both unintended and far-reaching consequences.”

“In addition to considering how much people are paying, a parallel discussion examining what is being paid for is also necessary. A more rigorous examination of the evidence supporting a range of services, treatments and investigations would help address concerns about growing healthcare costs.”

The AHHA also raised with the Committee a number of other key issues, including the subsidisation of pharmaceuticals, financial consent, data limitations and the cumulative impact of recent changes as a result of the 2014-15 Federal Budget. For more information on the AHHA, visit www.ahha.asn.au.

The AHHA represents Australia’s largest group of health care providers in public hospitals, community and primary health sectors and advocates for universal high quality healthcare to benefit the whole community.

Media enquiries: Alison Verhoeven Chief Executive, The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association 0403 282 501