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Australians pay through the nose for implantable medical devices

Posted: 2 May 2017 3:28 pm
Man with prosthetic legs sitting on the couch with his dog in his lap

Man with prosthetic legs sitting on the couch with his dog in his lap

Private health policyholders gouged more than $729 million for prosthetics.

As the debate over private health insurance costs and prostheses rages on, new data has revealed that in 2014-15 patients in private hospitals paid over $729 million more for medically implantable devices than if they had received the same treatment at public hospital prices.

This figure is expected to balloon almost $1 billion in 2017-18. hirmaa CEO Matthew Koce took aim at device manufacturers over the inflated prices charged by private hospitals.

“All the data points to the need for urgent reform of the regulation of medical devices. We need to put an end to this appalling situation where consumers in the private hospital setting are being forced to pay outrageous prices for medical devices such as artificial hips, knees and pacemakers,” Koce said.

High cost medical procedures driving up the cost of healthcare is nothing new for Australia.
The International Federation of Health Plans Comparative Price Report found that in 2015, Australia was an exceptionally expensive country to receive medical treatment.

If you needed a hip replacement you'd be paying $27,432 in Australia, over three times the cost of the same procedure in Canada ($8,604). If you needed an Automatic Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (AICD), it would cost you a whopping $67,765, five-and-half times the cost of the procedure in Canada ($12,107) and almost 13 times the cost of the procedure in England ($5,315).

Koce said multinational companies see our flawed regulatory environment as a license to print money.

“It is incomprehensible that consumers of private health are forced to pay many times more for identical medical devices than is the case in the public hospital system. In some cases commonly used medical devices cost well over 200% more for private patients,” Koce said.

Koce also touched on the Senate Inquiry into price regulation for the Prostheses List Framework.

"Most concerning are allegations made to a current Senate Inquiry that private hospitals and prostheses manufacturers engage in secretive under the table rebating arrangements at the expense of consumers, while some senior executives of private hospitals reaped in millions in wages and stock options," he said.

Australians have been losing faith in private health insurance, questioning its value for money.

The AMA recently urged those planning on taking out cover to ensure they have done their homework. If you're wanting health insurance that covers prostheses, make sure you know what is covered.

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