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Tips To Avoid An Expensive Medical Bill
●June 22, 2021●6 minute read
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There’s nothing worse than getting some much-needed medical attention, only to be left with a massive bill that you can’t afford. Especially if the costs aren’t covered under Medicare. However, even with a Medicare rebate factored in, medical bills can be highly expensive.
In this guide, we explore Medicare, medical costs, tips to avoid an unexpectedly high medical bill, and more.
What medical bills aren’t covered by Medicare?
If you attend a public hospital or bulk-billing GP clinic, you will not be left with any out-of-pocket expenses. However, you could have to pay a gap payment for a GP consultation at a regular clinic. Additionally, you could have to cover the costs of medical treatment as a private patient, in either a private or public hospital, including:
- Doctors or healthcare professional costs;
- Other hospital charges like accommodation and theatre fees.
Otherwise, these are the health services that aren’t usually covered by Medicare:
- Ambulance services (ambulance costs are covered by the state government in Queensland and Tasmania);
- Most dental treatments;
- Most physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, eye therapy, chiropractic services, podiatry, and psychology services;
- In most cases, acupuncture (unless it’s part of a doctor’s consultation);
- Glasses and contact lenses;
- Hearing aids and other hearing appliances.
In addition to these costs, if you need to see a private specialist, this can be costly, even if you have private health insurance.
How much do these services cost?
To give you an idea of how much you might have to pay for these costs, we have researched and found some prices of the following medical services:
- NSW: You can expect to pay a maximum of $6,571 (factoring on the 49% state government subsidy);
- QLD: Free of charge (it is covered by the state government);
- VIC: $1,265 in the city or $1,866 if you’re in a regional or rural area;
- SA: $233 for a non-emergency and $1,044 for an emergency. An additional $6 per kilometre is charged in both instances.
- WA: $1,006;
- ACT: $982 for transport and $13 per kilometre. Alternatively, you could pay $681 for an ambulance without transport.
- TAS: Free of charge (it is covered by the state government).
According to ADA data, the average cost of a periodic dental check-up is around $215.
The cost of the dentist can vary depending on the dental work you need done. A general check-up and clean can be a few hundred dollars, whereas a serious procedure like a root canal can cost a massive $4,760.
There are different types of physiotherapy sessions that will have differing costs.
- Initial consultation: $90 to $140;
- Subsequent consultation: $80 to $120;
- Extended consultation: $120 to $170;
- Therapeutic massage: $90 to $100;
- Shockwave therapy: $900 to $1,500;
- Acupuncture: $50 to $100.
If you have a referral from your doctor, you can often get a Medicare rebate on a certain number of physiotherapy sessions.
In some cases, you can receive a Medicare rebate for occupational therapy costs. According to Occupational Therapy Australia’s healthcare submission 59, occupational therapists in private practice typically charge $165 per hour, with a rebate of $38 per session.
Similar to occupational therapy, if you qualify under certain aspects of Medicare, you can receive a rebate.
According to Speech Clinic, a short assessment is $290, a mid-length assessment is $490, and a long assessment is $690.
Laser eye surgery, which is the most common type of eye therapy, can range from $2,000 to $6,000 per eye. Costs can change depending on the type of treatment used and whether it’s medically necessary. Laser eye surgery is not covered by Medicare, unless it’s used to treat certain eye diseases (which is rare).
Chiropractic services can be covered by Medicare if referred by your GP under a specific plan. The average cost of a chiropractor is $60 to $85 per visit, depending on whether or not you have insurance, the location in Australia, and the qualifications of the chiropractor. Prices are listed below in the following states:
- NSW: $80 to $95;
- VIC: $75 to $90;
- WA: $65 to $80;
- SA: $20 to $60;
- QLD: $80 to $90.
According to the Australian Podiatry Association, the price of a podiatrist can range from $80 to $89 for an initial consultation, and $70 to $79 for subsequent consultations. Most podiatry services aren’t eligible for a Medicare rebate.
Again, psychology sessions can be eligible to receive a Medicare rebate if you are referred by your GP, or in some instances, a psychiatrist, paediatrician, or consult physician. On average, a standard consultation is $260 without Medicare rebates factored in.
You could be eligible for free mental health services in a few situations, including if you are a veteran, a victim of a crime, or have been injured in the workplace or a traffic accident.
The prices of glasses and contact lenses depend on whether or not you have insurance and where you go. The Age states that one pair of glasses from a small, independent optometrist can cost $500, whereas an optometrist like Specsavers charges $59 for a pair of glasses, or two designer pairs from $179 to $199.
Contact lenses can also vary in price depending on the type of contacts, the prescription, and where you buy them. Prices can range from $250 for a three month supply to $29 for a six pack of lenses.
Hearing aids can cost as much as $12,000 for one pair. Prices can differ based on the brand, type and features of the hearing aid.
Did you know?
Hearing aids are one of the most expensive medical expenses in Australia, and they are not covered by Medicare.
How can I reduce these costs?
If you’re worried about the price tag of an expensive medical bill, there are things that you can do to potentially reduce the costs. While sometimes a medical bill is unavoidable, it never hurts to try out some options to reduce the financial impact.
Consider private health insurance
There are types of private health insurance plans that cover the types of medical services listed above. There are four main types of private health insurance: ambulance cover, hospital cover, extras cover, and combined policy hospital and extras cover.
Depending on the level of cover you have, the insurance company can cover a portion of or the entire medical bill. If you require ongoing treatments, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, or hearing services, having private health insurance can end up being worthwhile and minimise expensive bills.
Get multiple quotes
It’s always a good idea to get multiple quotes for any bill, especially some medical bills. There are certain industries that are not standardised, meaning that they charge any amount they wish to. For example, dental bills are not standardised. Meaning, if you call around for quotes on dental work, you will likely find different prices at different dentists.
If you’re looking to reduce the price of a medical bill, call around to local clinics to see what their pricing schedule is. This way, you can pick the most affordable option for you.
Minimise the need for medical attention
Accidents happen. Sometimes, medical attention is necessary and unavoidable. There’s no real way to minimise the chance of breaking an arm (other than being more careful). However, for services like dental and optical, there are things you can do to avoid an expensive bill. Taking good care of your teeth minimises the chance of further dental work becoming necessary, which can save you money in the long term. Additionally, ensuring that you are careful not to misplace your glasses can reduce the need to buy new glasses.
Want to learn more?
If you want to learn more about the cost of dental care, we have an article that can help. We also cover other topics like personal loan fees, different credit scores, and more!
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Written by Rachel Horan
Rachel Horan is a Content Writer for Jacaranda Finance. Rachel has previously produced content for Brisbane City Council, Black & White Cabs, and Clubs Queensland. She has a Bachelor of Mass Communication with Distinction from the Queensland University of Technology.