Health credit card touted to cover gap payments

Jennifer Doggett’s proposal for a health credit card is discussed in The Medical Observer
First published by Shannon McKenzie in The Medical Observer on 7 August 2009

A NEW “health credit card” that would allow patients to pay for their out-of-pocket health expenses in manage able instalments, should be consid ered as part of the reform agenda, according to a policy expert, as it would improve the access to and choice of primary healthcare services.

In the report, Out of pocket: rethinking health copayments, health policy analyst Jennifer Doggett proposed that patients use a health credit card to pay for approved health services, eliminating the need for cash upfront.

The Federal Government, she suggested, could pay healthcare providers their full fee, and charge any gap between this and the scheduled MBS rebate to the patient. The patient would then make regular payments to the Government, indexed to their income.

The proposal comes as the Government considers the newly released National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission report, however Ms Doggett notes that policy on copayments has been absent from discussions.

“Patient copayments have been largely ignored in reform proposals… [Yet] there is significant evidence that they are causing financial hardship among some groups, and are restricting their access to health care,” she said.

However, Robert Wells, director of the Menzies Centre for Health Policy in Canberra, was not convinced the Government should take on such debts, and suggested the scheme would only add more layers of bureaucracy to the health system. 

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