What Cuts to Pathology Will Mean For You
Cuts to pathology bulk billing will mean patients may have to pay for tests, pathology services could close and jobs could be lost. In short, your healthcare will suffer.
You may have to pay for tests
At present, pathology tests can be bulk billed meaning that the government pays a fee to the pathology provider that carries out the tests. Under this bulk billing arrangement, patients do not have to pay for pathology tests.
The government has announced its plan to take away this fee. Therefore, pathology providers will now be forced to ask patients to pay for tests themselves, so patients who were previously bulk-billed may need to pay for tests.
Pathology tests include blood tests, urine tests, swabs (such as pap smears), and tests on other samples of tissue or body fluids.
Why will pathology providers be charging patients?
For more than a decade the fees paid to pathology providers by the government have been frozen. However, the demand for pathology services has increased and the cost of providing pathology services is also rising. This means that the pathology sector has been absorbing these costs which amount to about $200m a year.
Taking away this bulk billing incentive is the last straw, and pathology providers will finally be forced to pass on the cost to patients.
Services could close
The pathology sector employs tens of thousands of Australians, covering every state and territory. If the government takes away the bulk billing incentive payments, pathology services will need to find ways to reduce costs. Smaller collection centers that see fewer patients, or those in regional and remote areas, will be placed under threat.
Patients may be forced to travel further to access pathology testing and pathology staff could lose their jobs.
People in regional and remote areas already have poorer health outcomes than those in metropolitan areas so it is vital that access to pathology is maintained for all Australians.
Healthcare will suffer
Pathology tests are essential for doctors to diagnose and treat thousands of medical conditions. The cuts to pathology bulk billing will affect all tests, including those used to prevent disease and keep people healthy, as well as tests needed to help people who are already sick.
All cases of cancer are diagnosed by pathology. Pap smears and bowel cancer screening are performed by pathology. Heart problems, diabetes, blood clots, and infections are all diagnosed and managed with test results.
Frequent pathology users include the elderly, the seriously ill, pregnant women, and parents with young children.