Doc­tors rebel at in­dus­try’s cash-grab­bing

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS - SUE DUN­LEVY

DOC­TORS irate at their in­dus­try’s own greed are of­fer­ing dis­counted surgery and sav­ing pa­tients up to $70,000.

The quasi-pro bono ser­vice high­lights how ridicu­lously high some sur­geons’ fees have be­come and the in­ad­e­quacy of health fund re­bates.

Mac­quarie Univer­sity head of plas­tic and re­con­struc­tive surgery Pro­fes­sor Anand Deva is be­hind the pro­gram which cov­ers post-weight loss surgery, breast re­duc­tion surgery, breast im­plant re­vi­sions, bari­atric surgery and is about to ex­pand into hip and knee re­place­ments.

More than 4000 pri­vately in­sured low in­come earn­ers have ap­plied to take part in the pro­gram and about 300 pa- tients in Queens­land, NSW and Western Aus­tralia have so far been treated.

“If all sur­geons did at least one ac­cess case a month it would be great. I’m do­ing four” he said.

Un­der the pro­gram, doc­tors ac­cept Medi­care and health fund re­bates for the surgery and charge pa­tients about $500 in gap pay­ments for plas­tic surgery and up to $1000 for bari­atric surgery. This is a mas­sive dis­count as com­monly gap pay­ments for plas­tic surgery can ex­ceed $20,000 per surgery.

Prof Deva said profit mo­tive was un­der­min­ing medicine and he wanted to bring it back to serv­ing the pa­tient. He said too many peo­ple with pri­vate health cover couldn’t af­ford to use it be­cause they faced mas­sive out-of-pocket ex­penses when doc­tors charged too much and health fund re­bates were in­ad­e­quate.

“I don’t want ev­ery­one drop­ping their cover be­cause of med­i­cal greed,” he said. “Af­ford­abil­ity is start­ing to go down and the sys­tem is hurt­ing and peo­ple don’t see value in it. Peo­ple are drift­ing away from pri­vate in­sur­ance and ul­ti­mately that will break the sys­tem.”

The AC­CESS scheme has been set up with ad­min­is­tra­tive sup­port from Mac­quarie Univer­sity. Pa­tients who have pri­vate health cover can ap­ply to take part in the scheme on­line and if they are found to meet cer­tain cri­te­ria are granted ac­cess to the pro­gram.

They must be earn­ing less than $120,000 a year, un­dergo a pre-sur­gi­cal as­sess­ment and be pre­pared to quit smok­ing or lose weight. ACCESSPROGRAM.ORG.AU

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