Sound recommendations from Senate Committee on private health insurance must be implemented

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A report from the Senate Community Affairs References Committee on the Value and affordability of private health insurance and out of pocket medical costs, released today, includes sound recommendations which must be implemented, says Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA).

‘The Committee acknowledged that for many Australians, the value of private health insurance is increasingly being questioned, because of the large number of policy exclusions, gap payments, complexity of policy terms and conditions (and frequent changes in these), and unexpected surprises regarding coverage.

‘It has made wide-ranging recommendations aimed at improving value, transparency related to out of pocket costs, clarity of information for consumers, and choice of service providers. Only when service providers and insurers address these issues will private health insurance represent better value for consumers, and better value for taxpayers who currently subsidise private health insurance companies to the tune of $6.4 billion per annum.

‘The AHHA notes, and supports, the recommendation that state and territory governments should review policies and practices regarding private patient election to ensure that all patients can provide informed financial consent. This should be further extended to ensure that all health service providers, both hospitals and clinicians, provide adequate information to patients to enable informed financial consent. Too many people have received unpleasant surprises regarding out of pocket costs for their healthcare, and this must be addressed.

‘Public hospitals and the clinicians who work in them agree with the recommendation that all patients should be treated on the basis of clinical need and not on the basis of insurance status. It is our contention that this already occurs; suggestions to the contrary are offensive to the staff who work in Australia’s public hospitals 365 days a year to provide the best healthcare possible to every patient they see.

‘The AHHA also notes the recommendation relating to private patient adjustments in the context of the next National Health Agreement. The full funding requirements of public hospitals should be taken into account in that Agreement: any attempt to further squeeze public hospital funding is not in the interests of patients and will compromise the capacity of public hospitals to deliver services equitably to all who need them.

‘It is pleasing that the Committee (and Private Healthcare Australia, in their response to today’s report) have recognised that patients living in regional areas and with special health needs requiring treatment in a public hospital should continue to have the right to their choice of doctor and continuity of care, whether that occurs in a private or public hospital.

‘We look forward to a positive response from the Australian Government to the Committee’s recommendations, which will assist in strengthening Australia’s unique public-private health service model,’ says Ms Verhoeven.

For more information on AHHA, see:

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, and community and primary healthcare services.