Shock treatment: high end hospital costs continue to climb
A hospital bill of $364,859 for complex bowel surgery heads the annual Medibank Private "Chart Toppers" list of the most expensive benefit claims made by members of the fund.
The bowel surgery claim, costing 20 per cent more than last year's most expensive claim, helped push the total value of Medibank Private's top ten claims for the year (to 30 June 2008) to almost $2.4 million.
Second on the Chart Toppers list was a claim for neurosurgery which came in at $276,595. Third place was for 469 days of neonatal hospital care for which Medibank Private paid a benefit of $256,451on behalf of the baby's parents.
Overall the number of very high cost claims has leapt, with Medibank Private covering 73 per cent more claims over $100,000, which increased from 86 to 149 during the period.
Medibank Private Industry Affairs Manager, Craig Bosworth, says the rising number of high cost claims indicates that the private health sector is increasingly carrying the burden of an ageing population and the complex, technologically intensive hospital care older people often require.
"The Medibank Private Chart Toppers list shows that providing quality healthcare is very expensive. With eight of the top ten claims for people aged 54 or over, it also illustrates that private health insurance is not just for elective surgery lumps and bumps, and members are increasingly using their private health insurance to cover themselves for the cost of complicated and potentially life saving surgery.
"Traditionally the high end surgeries would be borne by the public system. Now we are seeing people electing to use their private health insurance for these types of procedures, and enjoying the clear benefits it brings. These include choice of doctor, choice of hospital, and greater control over how soon the surgery can occur.
"This trend has been reflected in Medibank Private's hospital admission figures for 2007/08, which grew by 8 per cent over the previous year. In total we funded 810,000 hospital admissions, and as the Chart Toppers list shows, some of these are very expensive.
"Clearly the only way for most Australians to afford these type of medical procedures in a private hospital is with private health insurance", Mr Bosworth observed.
During 2006/07 Medibank Private spent $2.13 billion in benefit payments for hospital treatment. Overall the fund paid out $2.9 billion in hospital and ancillary benefits, an increase of 8.7 per cent on the previous year.
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