“This is a very important time for Australia’s health system. It’s undeniable that Australia has a world-class health system. It is fair and accessible. It has served us well. But its foundation is now close to 50 years old,” said Minister Ley in a recent address at the National Press Club.
“We are facing significant challenges in maintaining the sustainability of our health system; challenges that when Medicare was introduced, were not as clear as they are today.”
At the heart of the issue is money and the need to balance the rising cost of procedures against the funds available. Minister Ley stated that the government is under no illusion there still isn’t significant reform work to be undertaken to deliver a more sustainable health system and announced that the government will be:
- launching a public consultation to seek consumer feedback on private health insurance,
- conducting a series of roundtable discussions with key industry and consumer representatives to explore opportunities to amend unnecessary and inefficient regulation.
Industry Response – HBF
“I welcome the Minister’s review of the private health insurance sector,” he said.
“The balance between private and public is at the heart of the Australian model for health provision. But in recent history, federal governments have been guilty of taking for granted the contribution the private sector makes.
“It’s in everyone’s interest that the issue of affordability is tackled. Rising premiums, driven by factors outside the control of health insurers, are prompting members to question the value of their private health cover. As they choose cheaper, less comprehensive policies that let them down when they come to use them, there is the real danger that Australians will lose confidence in private health insurance.
“Minister Ley has shown she has the courage and energy to tackle issues that are too often consigned to the ‘too hard basket’.
“I’m hugely encouraged by the Minister’s words about the crucial importance of primary and preventative healthcare – as well as her clear determination to put the needs of patients first.”
Q: Similar to the “lifestage” superannuation finds, where investment allocation changes as the investor gets older, would there be benefit in consumers being able to choose a health insurance policy that they could stay with for life?
“Health insurance is certainly something that needs to change and adapt with you as your health needs change. We need to create flexible health cover products that can cater for this.
“I would caution members against ‘setting and forgetting’ their health cover for long periods.
“The best way to get the most value from your health insurance is to review it every year or two, and to speak in-person with your health insurer to make sure your cover is customised to your current needs.”
Q: What types of initiatives do you hope to see come out of this upcoming roundtable?
“The means-tested rebate has increased the cost of private health cover by up to 43 per cent for many members.
“I’d like to see this Government honour its commitment, which it made while in opposition, to remove the means test of the Australian Private Health Insurance Rebate. It’s urgently needed to address the issue of affordability.
“Also placing pressure on affordability is the discrepancy in price that private health insurers pay for prosthesis (which are used in many surgical procedures), versus what the public system pays for the very same items.
“Due to government regulation, health insurers pay significantly more. I’d like to see this addressed during the upcoming consultation process, because at the end of the day, it’s our members who pay the higher price, when we’re forced to increase premiums.”
The government has not yet announced the dates for the industry discussions or for public feedback.