I read an interesting article in the BMA news review regarding BUPA and the latest round of fee cuts.
Most consultants in private practice will have received BUPA’s new range of fees pertaining to their speciality. Procedure fees paid to consultants have been reduced in some cases by up to 50%.
Derek Machin chair of the BMJ private practice committee has commented “this is a reduction in benefits for patients. There has not been any increase by and large for these re-imbursements for 20 years, and they have now cut some of them by 50% leading to a shortfall for patients” he goes on to say that “the British Medical Association advice is for consultants to send their bills to the patients, not to the insurer, because it is the patients that they have the relationship with’
BUPA has said that they “benchmark procedures against other relevant procedures to establish its relative complexity, time and skill required”. It is interesting that where changes have taken place the vast majority are cuts to fees rather than increase. Whilst many would agree that medical fees do need regular review as procedures change both in terms of time, complexity and risk, there are many consultants left questioning this whole process, seeing it simply as a cost cutting exercise by BUPA that has little to do with proper reimbursement for high quality healthcare.
There has been no engagement with speciality organisations, most of whom have their own private practice sub-committees.
The BMA private practice committee has sought to meet with BUPA to discuss the issue, the company have refused.
As more consultants and specialities are drawn into this inevitably patients will become concerned that they are no longer able to see the consultant of their choice and the their medical insurance will not cover the costs of their private healthcare. The parallels with the BUPA/ BMI Healthcare dispute from earlier this year are becoming clearer with once again the patient stuck in the middle.
Simon Radley July 2012