I know I’ve previously shared my thoughts on asking strangers to pay for your medical bills (see: Is crowdfunding your medical bills fair?), but a recent story has persuaded me to revisit the issue again. This article highlights just how much people underestimate the cost medical treatment in Australia, which is ultimately one of the main reasons that people turn to crowd-funding sites.
You might have heard about Milli, a 12 year old from Perth whose family was trying to raise $100,000 so she could have Dr Charlie Teo, Australia’s best-known brain surgeon, try to remove her brain tumour. People in the medical community were outraged that Dr Teo would charge so much for the operation and suggested that he was ‘forcing’ people into crowd-funding.
But Dr Teo has gone on the record defending the cost of the surgery. He explained that 2/3 of the $120,000 fee was actually going to the private hospital, while the remaining $40,000 was dispersed between the surgeon, the assistant, anaesthetist, pathologist, radiologist, radiographer, etc.
Private hospitals have a reputation for delivering a level of care that is better than what you receive in the public system. They also have shareholders, who demand a return on their investment. So, if you don’t want to wait for treatment, you have to pay a premium.
The other thing that wasn’t clear from the initial coverage about the case was that most other surgeons had refused to operate or did not feel they could achieve positive results. The family had consulted with Dr Teo and he was prepared to carry out the difficult procedure. As a specialist, Dr Teo is free to set his own price, as are any other specialists that work in the private system. He could easily have asked for more than the $8,000 he received for the operation.
Oh, and the family also had to travel from Perth to the east coast for the surgery. Flights, accommodation, transport – the list of costs goes on.
The reality is, there are a lot more expenses involved in treating serious illness than most of us ever imagine. And many of these costs are not covered by Medicare or private health insurance.
If your loved one was diagnosed with a serious illness, what kind of care would you want them to receive? I expect you’d say you’d be happy to pay whatever it cost to ensure your loved one got the best doctors, the best medicines, the best hospital care and the best recovery treatment.
Regardless of whether you think the health system is fair, or that specialists shouldn’t be able to set their own fees, it is a fact of life that when serious illness or injury strikes, you will have to reach into your pocket. Wouldn’t it be nice to know you have the funds to afford the best? This is the peace of mind that insurance can give you.