Catholic Health concern about informed financial consent

Catholic Health Australia (CHA) has said that in an age when many many people on low and average incomes rely on private health services, they are "still placed in situations where they are not given a reasonable indication of possible out of pocket medical and specialist fees".

The comments came from CHA CEO Francis Sullivan after the release of government-commissioned research into private patient payments and medical gap fees.

Mr Sullivan expressed concern that the issue of informed financial consent still remains unresolved, and far from being accepted by the some elements within the medical profession.

"In a imprecise field such as health care it is understandable that some costs are difficult to estimate exactly, but indications of general fees should be possible in almost every case."

He suggested the situation "would not be tolerated in other professional fields so why does it persist in health care".

"With the costs of health care outstripping CPI and average wage growth, patients need to know the bills they may face simply as a matter of decency and professionalism," he said. "More than goodwill is needed to change what is clearly a cultural issue within some speciality areas."

The survey also revealed a disturbing trend whereby 8% of patients felt 'pressured' to be admitted as a 'private patient' whilst being treated in a public hospital."

"This is a trend which is increasing across the country and flies in the face of the latest performance report of public hospitals which indicates a drop off in the number of elective surgery patients that are treated on time."

"Why would public hospitals be pressuring patients to go private when the same hospitals cant keep pace with their public patient demand?"

In the same statement, Mr Sullivan expressed CHA's strong support for an initiative of the Federal Government whereby health funds are linked electronically with specialists to improve financial consent and payments.

"However until the major health funds invest in the necessary IT systems, take up of this initiative will remain at a snails pace."

Catholic Health Australia represents the largest grouping of non-government health and aged care providers.

Private Patient Survey Raises Questions (Catholic Health Australia 25/7/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Health Australia
Closing the gap - informed financial consent (Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing)
Informed Financial Consent (Australian Medical Association) | Media Release (14/6/01)

Private patient gap payments (Hon Tony Abbott MHR, Minister for Health and Ageing 25/7/05)
Abbott urges health action on 'gap' payments (ABC News 26/7/05)
Private patients concerned at gap payments (The Age 26/7/05)
Hospital gap bills earn ire of Abbott (The Australian 26/7/05)
The nasty sting in health funds (The Advertiser 26/7/05)

26 Jul 2005