Pensioners price-gouged over COVID vaccinations

26 Mar 2021

Price-gouging GP clinics seeking additional consult fees from pensioners - or anyone seeking lifesaving COVID-19 vaccinations - are breaking the rules of the national roll-out program, the Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie stated today.

The Centre Alliance MP made this comment after receiving confirmation in Question Time from the Health Minister, Greg Hunt, that Australians have to be bulk-billed for their vaccinations and any assessment consultation requested by doctors for new clients to ensure patient safety.

Rebekha raised the issue after several pensioners from her electorate reported being charged between $70 and $90 for “vaccine suitability assessments” because they were new patients at the designated vaccine clinic in their area.

“The Minister was very clear in his response – the vaccines are free, they are voluntary and any consult associated with the vaccine delivery must be bulk-billed,” Rebekha said.

“Pensioners cannot afford $70 to $90 in out of pocket costs. It’s outrageous to charge them and according to the advice of the health department, it’s also against the rules of those clinics participating in the program.

“We need to make sure the message gets out because we cannot risk our elderly forsaking their access to the vaccine because they think they cannot afford to visit a clinic.

“Although I will echo the words of the Minister and say these incidents reported to me appear to be an outlier and that most GPs are adhering to the rules.

“We couldn’t do this program without our primary health network. I would like to thank our GPs for taking part.”

During Question Time, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the vaccines were free, they were voluntary and consultations related to the vaccine delivery were also free of charge.

“In relation to the formal advice of the Australian Government Department of Health, vaccination providers cannot charge to administer the COVID-19 vaccine,” Minister Hunt said.

“The vaccine is free and the consult appointments, for patients to receive their vaccination is also free, exactly that which you've raised.

“Charging a patient any cost associated with the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine including booking fees is a breach of the requirements under the program.

“So, that has been the case. That is the case, that will continue to be the case. Where there are examples such as those that have been raised by the Member we will take them up.”

You can watch Rebekha’s question in Question Time here.

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