From ABC, September 30, 2006
AMA warns against loans for essential medical treatment
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says people should not be forced to take out a loan in order to receive essential medical treatment.
Financial groups such as Macquarie Bank and GE Money are allowing doctors and dentists to offer patients loans of up to $40,000 to undergo expensive medical procedures.
AMA president Mukesh Haikerwal has warned practitioners not to get greedy.
He says if the health care accessed through the loans is vital, the public system should provide for it.
"This may be the only solution available currently but it should not be," Dr Haikerwal said.
"If there is a need for health care that is important and essential within a community, that's the whole business of the health departments around the country, state and federal, to see about providing those services for citizens of each state."
He says the schemes raise two moral hazards that practitioners must avoid.
"One is the perception that, really, the loan is there so I will recommend something that may not need to be recommended. I don't believe that will be a driver but it's always a perception," he said.
"The second is that if there is any dark influence around the offering of these services from the surgery premises, it needs to be a hands off process."
The New South Wales Government says the offering of loans to patients by doctors and dentists for medical procedures is a conflict of interest.
Health Minister John Hatzistergos says it is a worrying practice.
"Well, I'm very concerned by the claims which are being made that patients are in fact being enticed into lengthy loans by finance companies for procedures that in particular they may not necessarily need," he said.
"This raises serious conflict of interest issues between the health services provider and the patient."