People in regions pay more for health service visits

PEOPLE in regional and remote areas of Australia are paying between 60 cents and $1 more than city residents every time they visit a health service, even before the government's now $7 GP co-payment.

The figures were revealed in an analysis of health costs by the National rural Health Alliance, in a submission to a Senate committee examining out-of-pocket health costs.

But while the cost of health services, and need for them, escalated the further people were from major cities, the actual average cost per service fell in more remote areas.

That was, the Alliance wrote, because the higher cost and lower availability of health service meant people were simply visiting doctors less in remote Australia.

The data reported in the submission showed residents of "major cities" paid an average of $5.01 per visit, rising to about $5.62 for inner and outer regional areas and up to $6.08 for "remote" areas.

"People in regional areas pay more in standard, measured out-of-pocket costs than those in major cities," the submission reads.

"These absolute costs are kept at relatively low levels by poor access to health professionals and services."

The Alliance wrote that if universal access to healthcare remains the goal of the health system, than the system must ensure "that out-of-pocket costs do not work to limit people's ability to access primary care".