Please use the Medical Costs Finder, AMA says

2 minute read

A new AMA position statement pushes the government’s medical fee transparency website, which has suffered from low uptake among doctors.

The number of specialist fees listed on the government’s $20 million Medical Costs Finder site has more than doubled in six months … for a grand total of 21.

When you eliminate the double-up listings of doctors who work across multiple locations, the real number of individual doctors is just 11.

It’s a far cry from representing even 1% of Australia’s roughly 30,000 total non-GP specialists.

To be fair, at least the number of doctors with fees listed on the site has increased since GP news site Australian Doctor last checked in on the service in October, when it had listings from just nine specialists.

To be clear, Medical Costs Finder does contain useful, high-level data about the average out-of-pocket costs for a consult across different specialties, as well as the bulk-billing rates of each individual specialty.

The initiative is designed to help patients find and understand the typical costs of common private health procedures, and roughly 531,000 patients have used the site since its launch in 2019.

Where it has failed to bring its vision to life, though, is in creating a map of the fees that individual specialists charge for specific services.

The low uptake may be related to the fact that listing individual fees on the site is entirely at the discretion of the individual doctor and is not tied to any particular incentive.

The DoHAC has not given up on making the fees map happen, with the AMA reporting that it has been working with the department to improve Medical Costs Finder and ensure it includes details about private health insurer rebates.

The association has even updated two of its position statements – one on informed financial consent and one on billing practices – to include a paragraph encouraging members to publish indicative fees and gap arrangements on the website.

AMA leadership, at least, has put its fees where its mouth is – president Professor Steve Robson is one of the 11 doctors with fees listed on the site.

The federal government spent $2.5 million developing the site and allocated a further $17 million in the 2020 budget to developing the individual fee disclosure component.

At the time, then-AMA president Dr Omar Khorshid told the Sydney Morning Herald that the Medical Costs Finder was “a complete failure” that “should be abandoned”.

Dr Khorshid’s fees are not listed on the website.

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