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1 in 4 Aussies dealt a shockingly high medical bill this year

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Rising medical bills are putting huge pressure on millions of Australians, according to new research by Finder.

A nationally representative survey of 1,057 respondents revealed a quarter of Australians (26%) – equivalent to 5.2 million people – have experienced an unexpectedly high medical bill in the past 12 months.

The most common appointments where Aussies say they experienced an unusually high bill were at a specialist visit (10%), the dentist (10%) and the GP (8%).

Tim Bennett, health insurance expert at Finder, said many were struggling to keep up with healthcare costs amidst the cost of living crisis.

"It's challenging because we're seeing groceries go up, rental payments increasing, petrol spikes, and now medical bills rising.

"It puts people between a rock and a hard place, having to choose between their hip pocket or their health."

This comes as the health insurance lobby has warned of double-digit premium increases if funds cave to hospital demands.

According to HealthEd, almost 1 in 4 GPs (22%) have switched from bulk billing to mixed or private billing – up from 10% last year.

Bennett said some private health insurance products can help cover the costs of healthcare not covered by Medicare.

"GPs generally aren't covered under private hospital insurance. This is because hospital cover only kicks in if you're admitted to hospital.

"However, there are other ways health insurance can end up saving you thousands in the long run."

Bennett said extras cover can help reduce the bill shock of treatments like dental and physiotherapy.

"Major dental operations can cost thousands of dollars, so taking out extras cover can be a great policy in the long term.

"Ambulance cover is also super important, as most states don't cover the cost of emergency ambulance services, so even one trip to the emergency room can come at a hefty price.

"Health insurance also allows you to skip the public waiting list and be treated by a doctor of your choice."

A look at policies available on Finder shows a difference of $134.06 per month between the cheapest and the most expensive extras policies.

"There's a huge chasm in the amount of cover and cost from the best to the worst health insurance for your situation, so it's important to compare policies and find the best one for you," Bennett said.

Gen Z are the most likely to admit they've received a higher than normal bill (40%), compared to baby boomers (21%).

Have you received an unexpectedly high medical bill in the past 12 months?
Yes, for a specialist appointment10%
Yes, for a dentist appointment10%
Yes, for a GP appointment8%
Yes, for a surgery4%
Yes, for a mental health service3%
Yes, for childbirth2%
Yes, Other (please specify)1%
Source: Finder survey of 1,057 respondents, September 2022
*Respondents could select all that apply

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