The Australian Labor party has released an issues paper to set the tone for its Productivity Commission review of the private health system, should it win the next Federal election.
The Commission review would be established within the first 100 days should a Labor Government be elected and the issues paper will help set the terms of reference for the inquiry.
Catherine King, shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, said the party was inviting consumers, experts and the private health sector to have their say.
“We want to improve the value, affordability and quality of private health insurance,” she said.
“A Shorten Labor Government will order a root-and-branch Productivity Commission review of the private health system – and we want your help to shape that inquiry.
“If we win the next election, we will impose a two percent cap on private health insurance price rises for two years. The cap will deliver immediate relief to families.
“But it’s important we also develop long-term reforms to ensure the private health sector has a sustainable future.”
Australian Private Hospitals Association CEO, Michael Roff said the two percent cap sounded good in theory, but needed to be well managed to avoid unintended consequences.
“Australians do struggle with the affordability of private health insurance, and we want them to see value in their insurance products. However, a blanket cap may result in those who need to access their insurance paying more. While those who do not use it will reap the benefit.
“For example, it may also lead to higher gap fees and a reduction in no-gap arrangements with specialists. Or private health insurers may reduce the number of hospitals they contract with or the benefits they will pay for under contracts with hospitals, reducing choice for consumers.
“These issues need to be considered carefully and structures put in place to ensure there are not adverse outcomes from these changes for Australians, particularly those who are vulnerable and need to use their insurance,” He said.
Mr Roff confirmed the APHA would be making a submission on the issues paper.
Ms King said the issues paper covered a range of topics.
“The issues paper includes key questions around product design, out-of-pocket costs, competitiveness, transparency and the premium setting process,” she said.
“We intend to publish draft terms of reference for the inquiry before the next election, informed by the submissions to this paper.
“This process will help ensure the inquiry is conducted quickly if we win the next election.”
Submissions are invited from all interested individuals and organisations and should be made to: firstname.lastname@example.org