LET’S not pussyfoot around …
LOOKS like yet another form of Visa Manipulation that the Government ought immediately address!
There are plenty more tourists to come from the 1.4 BILLION Source to feed the Tourism Industry without punishing the Australian Taxpayer in terms of lost revenue and long waiting lists for Australian Patients forced to get outa the way of tourists abusing our Medicare … particularly from China …
AREN’T the majority of tourists from CHINA where there is no Reciprocal Health Care Agreement?
WHY don’t the hospitals demand a substantial upfront payment from the credit/debit card on admission?
IF on arrival tourists present so ill should they not be flown back esp. if they do not have Travel Insurance to cover them for the length of treatment?
WHY doesn’t the Australian Government ensure that countries like China prevent their citizens from travelling to Australia when suffering from pre-existing conditions?
–WHY is it not made a condition – for countries where there is no Reciprocal Health Care Agreement – that such tourists must have travel insurance coverage for 6 months or more to cover the period of care?
-and/or credit card balance to cover treatment
*WHY should Australian taxpayers foot the bill to benefit tourism businesses, who through clever accounting, can minimise their fair share of Tax?
AUSTRALIA HAS RECIPROCAL HEALTH CARE AGREEMENTS WITH:
- the Netherlands
- New Zealand
- the Republic of Ireland
- the United Kingdom.
FROM THE COMMENTS:
-if the overseas tourist cannot present either a valid Medicare card and/or credit card perhaps they should be referred to a medical centre or a private hospital?
–I can absolutely assure you that scores if not hundreds of overseas visitors come here every year with pre-existing conditions they are well aware of, for the sole intention of receiving top class free medical care. Hospitals make very minor efforts to collect the costs, then just write it off. True.
-I work for heart surgeons and the number of overseas patients that come here and don’t have adequate health insurance is astonishing!
We have also seen a patient who had a health emergency at the airport on arrival (with a known pre-existing condition) and they had just taken the chance of arriving without insurance.
The problem is they get the lowest cost insurance and more often than not it’s a junk policy that isn’t suited for what they might need.
– If you present to a hospital on a relative’s Medicare Card: no photo or other identity check is done. Imagine how big the cost really is
– I wonder how many visitors borrow a friend’s Medicare card to seek free or subsidised medical care? Medicare cards should have a photo, age and address to at least make it more difficult.
-While I am busy trying to raise money for paediatric neurology at the Sydney Children’s Hospital, these tourists are bludging on our health system. They should be MADE to take out insurance.
‘It’s not fair’: Tourists leave taxpayers with $84m hospital bill
By Rachel Clun
December 4, 2019
The health minister says taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay the bills of tourists who amassed $64 million in unpaid hospital fees last year and a further $20 million already written-off.
A NSW Auditor-General’s report on health found NSW Health charged $113.6 million to Medicare-ineligible patients in 2018-2019.
By June 30, less than half of that had been paid, with $19.7 million written off as unrecoverable.
Hospitals must cover the cost of the outstanding bills, which in some cases could take years to be repaid.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said compared to the rest of the country, NSW has a very large proportion of hospital expenses from overseas travellers.
“That puts enormous pressure on the budget,” he said. “I am quite concerned, because that money would buy a lot of additional nurses and doctors.”
About 16,000 Medicare-ineligible people require hospitalisation in the state every year, according to NSW Health.
“We will always look after those who come, but it’s not fair that Australian taxpayers should happily pick up the tab,” Mr Hazzard said. ???…………….’
Opposition health spokesman Ryan Park said the millions in written-off fees could have gone to providing better health services.
“This is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently and should be on the agenda next time the state and commonwealth ministers meet,” he said.
“The community has a right to know that all levels of government are working together to fix this issue, so that millions of dollars that should be spent on healthcare doesn’t get wasted.”
Mr Hazzard said he raised the issue with his state and federal counterparts earlier this year. He also launched a media campaign targeting overseas visitors who mistakenly think medical treatment is free in Australia.
A NSW Health spokesman said if the written-off fees were less than 30 per cent of all fees charged, it could be a sign the media campaign was working.
Who has to pay for public hospital treatment?
There are plenty of people who are eligible for Medicare-subsidised public hospital treatment, including citizens, permanent residents, New Zealand citizens who live in Australia.
People from the 11 countries – which include Belgium, Italy, Sweden and the UK – covered by the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) may also be covered for urgent treatment, for example some people on a temporary student visa or working visa from one of those countries.
Everyone else is considered “Medicare ineligible” and has to pay for their public hospital stay either through their health insurance or out of their own pockets.
The spokesman also said the $64.2 million in unpaid fees could have dropped since June as “some invoices are not paid for several months or, in rare cases, years.”
“Clinicians at NSW public hospitals have a professional and ethical obligation to treat all patients according to need, regardless of health cover or Medicare eligibility,” he said.
“However, Medicare-ineligible patients are invoiced for their care and in many cases, are accommodated with generous payment plans in order to meet their obligations.”
NSW Health was also looking at how other states and territories address Medicare write-offs, and Mr Hazzard said he will take that information to the council of health ministers.
Patients nowhere to be found
*Five Sydney health districts represented more than 85 per cent of the written-off fees alone. The reasons for the write-offs varied between health districts, but the majority said part of the issue was inability to find the patients.
*Sydney local health district wrote off the most at $4.5 million, mostly due to overseas patients who could not be found.
North Sydney, which wrote off $4.2 million in 2018-2019, said factors also included financial hardship, unsuccessful legal fights to recover the money, and the death of patients.
*South Western Sydney local health district said health insurance problems fees related to asylum seekers living in the community contributed to its $3.3 million write-off, and Western Sydney and South Eastern Sydney wrote off $2.5 million and $2.1 million respectively.
Mr Hazzard said he has seen bills higher than $200,000 for some overseas visitors, but he did not believe people travelling to NSW to see family intended to end up in hospital.
In one incident, a person was visiting family in Australia when they suffered a cardiac arrest and had to be rushed to hospital for treatment. Their three months’ travel insurance had expired, leaving them with a $24,000 hospital bill.
“Most don’t come with a deliberate intent to become ill,” Mr Hazzard said.
Rachel Clun is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.