Bloody rip-off

$220 for bulk-bill tests

Herald Sun - - NEWS - SUE DUNLEVY sue.dunlevy@news.com.au

CHEMISTS are charg­ing pa­tients $220 for blood tests they can get free from a doc­tor.

Some 100 Am­cal chemists na­tion­wide this week be­gan of­fer­ing a “Smarthealth” pro­gram in which they or­der blood tests for di­a­betes, heart dis­ease, kid­ney dis­ease, fa­tigue and vi­ta­min D de­fi­ciency.

The chemists urg­ing pa­tients to take the tests earn an undis­closed “ad­min­is­tra­tive fee” built into the cost.

Sonic Health­care, which runs the pathol­ogy labs that do the tests, gains business but does not pay the phar­ma­cist.

Am­cal se­nior phar­ma­cist James Neville said many men in particular did not see a doc­tor reg­u­larly. The tests were a way to find the 500,000 peo­ple with un­di­ag­nosed di­a­betes or heart dis­ease.

Pa­tients could go on­line and or­der the tests them­selves with­out a GP re­fer­ral. But hav­ing a phar­ma­cist in­volved brought a trusted health ad- viser into the process who could nudge a per­son to see their doc­tor, he said.

There is no Medi­care re­bate for the tests when or­dered by a chemist, so the pa­tient has to pay the full fee, which ranges be­tween $14.99 and $220.

If a GP or­dered the tests, most would be bulk-billed and cost the pa­tient noth­ing.

The test­ing pro­gram has an­gered the AMA, which says it frag­ments pa­tient care and risks se­ri­ous health prob­lems not be­ing de­tected.

The test re­sults could show a pa­tient had hepati­tis, re­nal fail­ure, se­vere anaemia or other health con­di­tions that re­quired ur­gent treat­ment that a phar­ma­cist can­not pro­vide.

“This is the com­plete an­tithe­sis of the GP health­care model the gov­ern­ment is try­ing to de­velop,” said AMA GP spokesman Dr Tony Bar­tone.

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