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Consumers' Institute survey of doctor visit fees


Ministry welcomes Consumers' Institute survey of doctor visit fees

The Ministry of Health has welcomed the results of a Consumers' Institute survey of Primary Health Organisation (PHO) doctor practices nationwide.

Ministry spokesperson Deputy Director-General, Dr Colin Feek, said the survey was conducted to find out the exact cost of doctors visits for New Zealanders rather than relying on anecdotal evidence.

"Congratulations to the doctors who took part in the survey, the overall results show that where the Government has committed extra funding - to those in high health needs areas, and those aged under 18 and over 64 - doctors' fees have reduced significantly compared to groups where Government funding has not been increased at this time."

The average fee levels around the country were in line with Ministry expectations, Dr Feek said, and were very similar to a survey conducted last year, showing that overall the average fees charged had not increased significantly.

"We are delighted to see GPs complying with Government policy to keep fees down. However there are are a few practices which do charge higher fees and they need to look at them to see if they are in line with general practice in New Zealand."

New Zealanders in the 18 to 64 year old age groups can expect to start seeing lower fees beginning July this year and ending in July 2007 with the completion of the funding roll out to practices, he said.

"We had heard from individuals and through media reports that fees were rising in some areas so the Ministry commissioned this survey from one of the most trusted sources of consumer information to find out if that was in fact the case."

The phone survey was conducted over two days in February using details from the Ministry's database of PHO practices throughout the country to get a better picture of the fees being charged by doctors.

Full findings from the fees survey are available on the Consumers' Institute website.

Under the terms of agreement for getting public funding, all general practices have to display their charges where patients can easily see them.

Dr Feek said that knowing what fees to expect was an important part of an individual’s decision to get care, and this information needed to be easily available. Having fees information listed by GP practice on Consumers' website was another way for people in the community to find out before visiting their doctor.

Dr Feek said the Ministry will continue to support District Health Boards as they work with PHOs on reducing GP fees.

There are 77 PHOs covering about 3.8 million New Zealanders around the country. Of these, about 2 million can get low or reduced-cost care through their PHO practice and this number will rise from 1 July this year when everyone aged 18 - 24 who belongs to PHO will be eligible for the same lower cost doctor visits as school age children and people aged 65 and over.

Questions and Answers

What is an Access PHO?
Access-funded PHO practices are those with 50 percent or more low-income, Mâori or Pacific peoples on their register – they have significantly lower fees for everyone enrolled with them regardless of whether someone has a Community Services Card or not.

What are Interim PHOs?
These are practices which are not in areas that have high deprivation. They received extra government subsidies for everyone aged 6 - 17 and 65 and over so fees for people in these age groups are lower, but not for other age groups unless they have a Community Services Card.

When will the rest of New Zealanders get lower cost healthcare?
Currently people aged six - 17 or 65 and over and enrolled in a PHO are eligible for reduced cost doctor visits and pay $3 for many fully subsidised prescribed medicines. These benefits will be extended to everyone over the next few years:

18 to 24 year olds from July 2005
45 to 64 year olds from July 2006, and
25 to 44 year olds from July 2007

For further information about the Primary Health Care strategy visit http://www.moh.govt.nz/primaryhealthcare

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