Bundaberg Hospital.
Bundaberg Hospital. Mike Knott BUN130718HOSPITAL1

Hospital asks discharged patients to bill healthfund

BUNDABERG Hospital is writing to patients after they have been discharged to ask them to bill their health fund for their care in a move driving up health fund premiums.

It is proof that people are being asked to charge their health insurer even when they derive no benefit in the form of doctor of choice or a private room from using their health cover.

News Corp has obtained a letter sent to patients from Bundaberg Hospital. It asks a patient to retrospectively "elect to have your admission classified as private”.

The hospital offers to cover any excess or co-payments but does not guarantee there will be no out-of-pocket bills for surgeons or tests.

"This is at no cost to you but a great benefit to the hospital,” the letter says.

"The additional funding we receive when patients elect private admission helps the hospital to maintain facilities, pay for new equipment, fund additional doctors/nurses which ultimately improves patient services and outcomes.”

A Queensland Health spokesperson said giving patients the choice to use their private health cover in public hospitals was a "long-established practice enshrined in national agreements”.

"There are many reasons why a patient may elect to be treated as a private patient in a public hospital. These include the right to be treated by a doctor of their choice, and the unavailability of private hospitals in some regions and for some specialities,” the spokesperson said.

Patients who use their cover do not face out-of-pocket expenses under their private health insurance.

"This is because any excess under their policies may be met at the discretion of the hospital,” the spokesperson said.

One in eight patients used their health cover to at least partially fund treatment in Queensland public hospitals in 2015-16.

New data released this week shows health fund membership has plunged to its lowest level in more than a decade as premiums continue to soar above the rate of inflation.

Yesterday, private health insurer Bupa permanently closed its Bundaberg storefront, saying it was no longer sustainable.

In June, 44.2 per cent of the population was covered by a health fund after more than 28,500 people dumped their cover as premiums continued to outstrip inflation and out-of-pocket bills grew.

Public hospitals collected more than $1.6 billion from billing health funds every year and funds have estimated it is adding $92 to the average health fund premium.

A new report has found people are paying 20 per cent too much for their private health insurance. It comes as Bupa closes its Bundaberg store at Hinkler Central.

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