$220 for bulk-bill tests
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.