The true cost of staying healthy in Australia

Canberrans most likely to be slugged fees for Medicare services

"The fact people aren't able to take up referrals because of costs, or they're having to face hard decisions about curtailing other aspects of their family budget, that's a concern".

The report, Patients' out-of-pocket spending on Medicare services looks at health services that were delivered outside of hospitals and subsidised by Medicare, including GP, specialist, imaging and obstetric services.

Figures released from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) today showed that 663,000 Australians were unable to cope with the cost of visiting a non-bulk billing GP in the 2016/17 financial year.

For the first time, the AIHW also examined what non-hospital healthcare costs based on the medical specialty as well as the region the patient lives in.

And the bill is so massive, 1.3 million patients delay or don't see a doctor, have a medical test or use a medicine because they can't afford it.

On a smaller statistical level, South Canberrans were the most likely of any area in the country to have to pay for Medicare services.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) said the report signals a need for the government to support those planning to have children.

There were wide disparities in the amount patients paid depending on where they lived.

It is worse for specialists with seven in ten patients making some out of pocket payment to cover their bill, with some patients forking out up to $177 in gap fees. In Western Queensland it's a little more than half of that - costing $104.

For some patients in northern Sydney, those out-of-pocket costs hit $876 - six times the median.

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Just 31 percent of Northern Territory patients paid extra for a non-hospital service, but for those living in the ACT 69 per cent dipped into their pockets.

For those who paid to see their GP, the out-of-pocket costs ranged from a low of $12 in western Sydney to $51 in Canberra.

Across Australia 1.1 million people spent $601 or more on medical gap fees.

Tony Bartone, president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), said that investment in Medicare had failed to keep up with rising medical costs.

Patients in metropolitan areas were less likely to have out-of-pocket costs than patients in regional areas.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has stressed that in the same year, more Australians visited the doctor at no charge than ever before, with the bulk-billing rate for Global Positioning System hitting a record 86.1 per cent.

The data said 77.5 per cent of South Canberra patients incurred out-of-pocket costs, with a median price tag per year of $213.

It's been revealed more than half of Australia's population have to pay money on top of Medicare to settle medical bills.

Exposing the excessive costs charged by some medical professionals will help prevent people being dealt hefty fees by surprise, the federal government says.

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