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Woman’s $354 bill exposes ‘messed up’ problem facing millions of Aussies

Content creator Imogen Blow posted an emotional TikTok after being charged hundreds of dollars to see a medical specialist.

A Perth woman has tearfully shared her shock at receiving a costly medical bill, exposing a financial problem facing millions of Aussies.

Content creator Imogen Blow said she kept losing her voice and went to see her doctor to get a specialist referral.

She explained she paid $80 to see her GP and was given a list of six different specialists. After calling them up to check their prices, she ended up going with the cheapest option - which was only about $20 less.

Imogen Blow speaking about medical bill.
Content creator Imogen Blow shared she received a $354 bill from a medical specialist. (Source: imogenblow/TikTok)

Do you have a story to share? Contact tamika.seeto@yahooinc.com

Imogen then shared she was charged $354 to see the specialist, despite spending longer sitting in the waiting room than in the actual appointment.

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“Thirteen minutes I was with the doctor and she charged me - and it’s not her fault, it’s just what it is - $354.90,” Imogen shared in an emotional TikTok video, which she filmed after her appointment.

“I know I’m not even the worst case. I know that my income and expenses are not as terrible as they could be.

“I know there’s people out there who have life-threatening surgeries and they can’t afford to pay it, private health won’t pay it or they might not even have private health.”

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Imogen said the doctor checked her vocal cords using a device that went down her nose. She said this took eight seconds and was added to her bill.

The doctor then told Imogen she had vocal nodes and, because she was not a specialist in vocal cords, she referred her to another specialist who also worked with a speech pathologist. Imogen said that meant she would need to spend another $354.90.

“I get some money back with Medicare. I get $81 back … maybe $114,” Imogen said.

“I’m not the worst one out there. There are other people who have it way worse ... they have kids and it’s so stressful and I get it. This is messed up.”

In the comments, a number of Aussies shared they had also been hit with large medical bills, with some saying they were putting off medical treatment because of the cost.

“I feel you girl. I had a specialist appointment today, consultation $150 for 4 mins, discussed the xrays, sent for a ct scan because ‘could be a shadow on the xray’ $354 no Medicare rebate,” one person said.

“I have a referral for an ultrasound on my leg that's about 6 months old because I can't afford $300 to see if it's a blood clot, tumour or cyst,” another said.

Others expressed their frustration at needing to pay to see a GP in order to get a specialist referral.

Aussies delaying treatment due to cost

According to recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data, 7 per cent of people who needed to see a GP in 2022-23 either delayed or did not see one due to cost. This was double the number compared to the year prior.

About 10.5 per cent of people said cost was a reason for putting off or not seeing a medical specialist when needed, up from 8 per cent. Younger people were more likely to delay health services due to the cost.

The bulk-billing rate among specialists was 29.2 per cent from July to December 2023, down from 30.6 per cent the year before. The average out-of-pocket amount was $106.71.

The GP bulk-billing rate was 77.7 per cent across Australia, up 2.1 per cent since the government tripled the bulk-billing incentive.

The Australian Medical Association recommended in November that doctors raise their fees to keep pace with rising costs. It recommended clinics charge $102 for a standard GP consultation, up from $90 in March and $98 in July.

The latest inflation figures showed health costs rose 3.9 per cent in the 12 months to February 2024, unchanged from January.

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