“Wilko’s View on Paying Bills”

2013 Wilko Report Tuesday 6 May

“Wilko’s view on paying bills”

A colleague mentioned last week how he had revised his billing practices to cope with a large outstanding sum of fees owing to his practice.

I am a dinosaur in this respect. My parents never had more than the old basic wage but taught us to always pay your bills. When my dad retired in 1974 he was on $60 a week – the same year my basic pay in my  first year after graduation was $90. But my parents had no debts and certainly no money owing to doctors. They would have been mortified if there was ever an overdue account notice – there never was. They were old stock who had grown up in times of  war and depression and could make things last or do without. They  never had a credit card, needless to say. We were lucky no one in the family had a severe chronic illness of course.

Thus I am not overly sympathetic to cries of “poor” from patients who have elective or sometimes even emergency surgery in private hospitals, then try to welch on paying for my services. There is a “free” alternative in public hospitals for a start.
My fees have always been modest, above the ridiculous MBS levels naturally, but gaps on even a very large procedure e g anaesthesia for a  double hip replacement, were always modest – and if patients had the good manners to ask for consideration it was always readily   given. But I had a wife and 4 kids to care for myself and was not a one man charity.

There seems to be a minority of people who think that doctors don’t have to  be paid, or that accounts have no legal force. The same people often take overseas holidays, or even if they don’t, they nearly all drive cars and will happily fork out $70 to $100 every week to put petrol in the cars they have paid $30,000 or more for. My parents never had a car – we went everywhere by bus, train or ferry. All doctors should have credit card facilities  – not only for the security of handling less cash, but also because a request for a credit card is a neat foil for wavers of green Medicare cards who think the rebate is all that they have to pay.

Before Medicare, the average Aussie saw a GP 6  or 7 times a year. Now they see their GP 10 to 11 times a year. They are not sicker – life expectancy is up. Maybe if Medicare rebate were nil for visits up to say 10 a year, and only then available for chronic illness (this is exactly what happens in Sweden – everyone pays $60 for the first 15 visits a year !) we would be rid of he worried well and be able to practise our real calling of caring for the  sick. …..! Don’t hold your breath for such common sense, a most uncommon commodity.

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