Hospital clinics are free under Medicare but you’ll need a referral from your GP. A specialist is in charge of the clinic and oversees the work of the trainee doctors. You may or may not see the same doctor each time. At the hospital clinic you’ll also have the opportunity to see a diabetes educator and dietitian.
A referral is needed from your GP. You’ll be charged a fee and there’ll be a gap to pay between the Medicare payment and fee charged. You’ll need to complete a form for Medicare to get your money back. Under special circumstances (financial hardship) the specialist may negotiate the payment of the gap. You’ll see the same doctor every time and they’ll keep in touch with your GP. You can also let your specialist know if you want letters sent to any other health professionals. A diabetes educator and dietitian are usually not available at private specialist clinics, so you’ll need to arrange this separately.
It’s really important that you have a regular GP that you get along with and trust. It’s good to have someone else who can help and who knows what’s happening to you. If you get sick your GP can help and be in contact with your specialist. Medicare may cover visits to the GP if they bulk bill. Your GP can help with emergency insulin scripts, general illness and referrals to other health professionals, however, it’s still important that you see a diabetes specialist.
Private health funds cover many areas, there are different levels and the costs vary. Private health insurance can help with the cost of private hospital admissions, the cost of seeing other health care professionals in private practice (eg. psychologists, dietitians, and physiotherapists) – each fund deals with this differently. Private health Funds do not cover costs of seeing your diabetes specialist (except for hospital). You don’t have to be in a private health fund to see a specialist privately.
Other stuff to think about…
Getting yourself to appointments can be a challenge as your situation changes. There may not be anyone to take you to appointments and you may have to rely on public transport. There may not be enough time to get there between lectures or after work. The hours for most appointments are between 9 and 5pm. You need to think about all of this and plan ahead.
Not many centres run an after-hours or weekend clinic that you can attend. Some private specialists do a late clinic so this may make it easier to find a suitable time that fits in with you.
It’s important that you get an update about diabetes management, especially if your parents were the ones who were initially educated when you were diagnosed. There are many other things you need to think about like alcohol, driving, contraception, pregnancy and parties. You need to understand how to manage when you’re sick, how to adjust your insulin and manage from day to day.