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Hit On Lab Test Costs For Private Patients

16 June 2006

Double Hit On Lab Test Costs For Private Patients

Private patients are going to be hit twice by the move by Capital & Coast and Hutt Valley DHBs to charge them for laboratory tests, says Southern Cross Healthcare Group Chief Executive, Dr Ian McPherson.

When the DHBs’ new laboratory testing contract takes effect from November 1, private patients will not only pay the cost of their tests, but also be charged an additional $13 “encounter fee”.

Dr McPherson said the decision to cease laboratory test funding for private patients in the Wellington area was no doubt the tip of the iceberg and it was clear other DHBs would follow suit.

“This is a real concern for all New Zealanders, not just for our 800,000 members. This policy will impact on every person who is using the private system, and already paying for elective surgery out of their own pockets.”

Dr McPherson said the DHBs had not consulted constructively on the cost shift, despite a detailed submission from both Southern Cross as New Zealand’s largest private medical insurance provider, and the HFANZ - the health insurance industry body.

“The DHBs have effectively told their lab contractor what to charge private patients and allowed them to add a fee on top. This is a very significant shift of costs onto the entire private health care sector and it has considerable financial implications. Claims will increase and ultimately premiums will have to reflect that increase.

“It’s bad enough shifting laboratory costs onto private patients but also penalising them further by adding an administrative fee is a nonsense. The ramifications of this haven’t been widely expressed and I believe are not fully understood.”

Dr McPherson said DHBs were claiming that the average cost of a lab test was $10.

“Private patients should be questioning why it costs $13 to collect $10.

“The DHBs’ own figures for Wellington show that these tests are worth more than $2 million each year. Add to this the “encounter fee” and it could reach well in excess of $3 million – and this is only one region. As this policy rolls out nationally, more and more costs will be shifted onto more Kiwis.

“This has been pushed through without allowing the public, private patients, specialists and health insurers to make the necessary adjustments. We now have a situation where Wellington private patients are going to be treated differently from those in the rest of the country.

”This is no way to treat patients who are already doing their bit, by using their own money to pay for private care.”


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