Sun. May 19th, 2024

These tips could save you money on your next doctor’s visit

Emily Hudson By Emily Hudson May18,2024
Key Points
  • Data suggests the cost-of-living crisis is forcing Australians to forego health check-ups and doctor’s visits.
  • While bulk-billed visits to the GP are on the rise, there are other ways to save money on consultations.
  • A Sydney-based doctor suggested more comprehensive check-ups, remote prescription renewals and phone consultations.
A growing number of Australians are postponing medical check-ups and opting to attend hospital emergency wards instead of general practitioners, as the cost-of-living crisis forces people to make hard choices about health care.
The federal government released data this week showing that the number of bulk-billed visits to GPs rose as much as 2.1 per cent since it tripled incentives for doctors to take bulk-billed appointments in November — results that Health Minister Mark Butler hailed as “a win all round — for patients, doctors and the health system”.
During that same period, however, the average cost of health care nationwide rose by about 2.8 per cent.

The expense of medical and hospital services were the main contributors, rising more than 4.5 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

This means that for , or aren’t eligible under the government’s new scheme, out-of-pocket costs remain a significant barrier to accessing health care.
And it’s producing troubling knock-on effects for those living on a tight budget.
Data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in November found that the proportion of people who reported cost as a reason for delaying or foregoing a GP visit when needed doubled in 2022-23 compared to 2021-22.

A survey published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in November further revealed that a third of respondents who needed to see a dental professional delayed or neglected making an appointment at least once in the 12 months prior — with about one in six Australians saying cost was a reason.

OutOfPocketCosts.png

Source: SBS News

Dr Rebekah Hoffman, a GP from Sydney, described the trend as “worrying”.

“When people come to you and say, ‘I need to decide between going to the dentist or paying for petrol,’ it’s a really, really worrying time,” Hoffmann told SBS News.
Other people, she said, were bypassing the doctor’s consultation altogether and heading straight to hospital emergency in a bid to cut costs.
“Four per cent of patients who would normally see their GP are going to the hospital instead and sitting in emergency,” she said.

“That’s expected to increase to about 11 per cent over this year, which means the ED is being filled with people that could be seen by their GP instead. And the number one driving factor for that is cost.”

How to save money

For those struggling to afford health check-ups or GP visits, Hoffmann suggested a handful of easy ways to cut down costs.
The first of those is to, meaning the entire cost of the consultation is covered by Medicare.
Cleanbill is a website that helps connect patients with a bulk-billing or low out-of-pocket cost doctor in their area.
For those who don’t live in such an area, or who aren’t able to access a bulk-billing service, other cost-cutting methods are available.

“Save up all of your questions for the one visit,” Hoffmann said.

“So you need to go to your GP to get your pap smear done? Also get your blood pressure checked, get your regular routine heart check done, get your skin check done, get everything that you need to get done for that next 12 months in that visit. And if you don’t know what those things are, your GP can tell you.”
For patients who are on certain medications and feel they need to book an in-person GP visit every time they run out, Hoffmann suggested taking the process online instead, meaning the “cost of that visit is actually closer to $20 rather than the $90 for most medication.”
Moreover, those using certain medications can get a longer prescription to avoid return visits.

“There’s a list of about a hundred regular medications. If you are on one of those, we can actually prescribe it (the medicine) for 12 months now rather than just for six, which means you need to see me half as frequently as you used to.”

Finally, Hoffmann cited telehealth — a service that provides remote consultations with healthcare providers — as a more economical option for patients who might not necessarily require an in-person, physical check-up.
In this case, she pointed out, patients stand to save time.
“Out of pocket you will often be paying the same (for a telehealth appointment) as if you did go in to see your GP, but what’s different is your time,” she said.
“You can do it on your lunch break, you can do it before work, you can do it just after you’ve dropped the kids to school. You don’t necessarily have to take time off work to go in for that doctor’s visit. So that’s where the real cost saving is.”
And for more stories head to  — a new podcast series from SBS, hosted by Ricardo Gonçalves and Peggy Giakoumelos. They explore one area where consumers can make savings with an expert in the field. From supermarkets to rents, nutrition to petrol and so much more, learn about the strategies used to get you to spend more, and more importantly, what you can do, to spend less.
Follow Cost of Living Secrets on the or wherever you get your podcasts.
Emily Hudson

By Emily Hudson

Emily is a talented author who has published several bestselling novels in the mystery genre. With a knack for creating gripping plotlines and intriguing characters, Emily's works have captivated readers worldwide.

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2 thoughts on “These tips could save you money on your next doctor’s visit”
  1. As an Australian, I can relate to the struggle of balancing the rising cost of living with the importance of regular health check-ups. It’s unfortunate that many of us are forced to postpone medical visits due to financial constraints. The government’s efforts to increase bulk-billed appointments are commendable, but more needs to be done to address the out-of-pocket costs that still pose a significant barrier to accessing healthcare for many individuals.

  2. As an Australian, I believe that prioritizing health check-ups should never be compromised even in the face of a cost-of-living crisis. Finding ways to save money on consultations is essential, but we must not neglect our well-being. Remote prescription renewals and phone consultations sound like practical solutions, but comprehensive check-ups should not be overlooked. It’s concerning to see people resorting to emergency wards due to financial constraints. Access to quality healthcare should not be a luxury.

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