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Do heart stents cost Australian private health funds five times more than they cost in NZ?

August 23, 2019

The Statement

“One of the most commonly used implants, cardiac stents, are five times the price in Australia as they are in New Zealand.”

 Private Healthcare Australia chief executive Rachel David. August 22, 2019. 

The Analysis

As federal Health Minister Greg Hunt consults on ways to stem the tide of Australians dropping their private health insurance due to rising premiums, Private Healthcare Australia chief executive Rachel David says the industry’s hands are largely tied by the cost of medical devices. 

AAP FactCheck examined Ms David’s claim that cardiac stents cost five times more in Australia than in New Zealand.

Ms David’s office told AAP FactCheck her claim relied on a comparison between the cost difference of a specific commonly used brand of permanent cardiac stent, available in both Australia and New Zealand.

Heart stents are tiny wire mesh tubes used to prop open narrowed or blocked arteries. There are two types – bare metal stents, and drug-eluting stents which are coated with drugs that help keep the artery open.

In New Zealand, the most commonly used drug-eluting stents – accounting for 65 per cent of the market – are from Abbott Laboratories Australasia’s Alpine and Xpedition ranges. 

The Xpedition stent costs $NZ525 ($A495) and the Alpine stent costs $NZ750 ($A707). Bare metal stents by various brands cost between $NZ250 ($A236) and $NZ465 ($A440).

In Australia, the cost of heart stents is mandated by the federal government, through the Prostheses List, which sets the benefit amount private insurers must pay for medical devices

Australian private health funds pay $898 for a bare metal stent regardless of brand, and $2484 for drug-eluting stents including the Abbott Laboratories Australasia’s Alpine and Xpedition ranges.

The Xpedition stent costs five times more for an Australian health fund than the same device costs in New Zealand. The Alpine stent is 3.5 times more expensive in Australia, and the bare metal stent is two to 3.8 times pricier.

Based on this evidence, AAP FactCheck found Ms David’s claim to be mostly true. One specific kind of commonly used stent – the Xpedition stent by Abbott Laboratories – is five times more expensive in Australia than New Zealand. The minor problem is that other stents are between two and 3.8 times more expensive.

The Verdict

Mostly True – Mostly accurate, but there is a minor error or problem.  

First published August 23, 2019  16:02 AEST

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