The latest Grattan Institute report into the private health insurance debate has been dismissed by Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) CEO Michael Roff, who said the report failed to understand the private sector and presented no new information or ideas.
The report – The history and purposes of private health insurance – has fundamentally misunderstood the contribution of the private hospital sector, Mr Roff said.
“The report – which by its own admission raises questions but provides no answers – fails to understand the basics of private hospital care. This is concerning when it claims to be the basis for discussing Government support of health insurance.
“As a basis for policy-maker decision making, its failure to understand what private hospitals offer Australians it is a poor starting point for the debate.”
Mr Roff said the ‘context’ provided by the report for policy makers is outdated and flawed.
“The report claims ‘Complex procedures requiring specialised equipment of skills are rarely available in private hospitals’.
“This is absolute rubbish. New technology and equipment are almost universally introduced first into the private system. A good example of this is robotic surgery. Commonplace now in major private and public hospitals, this technology was pioneered in Australia at the Epworth, a private hospital in Melbourne.
“There are 801 procedures available in public hospitals, private hospitals perform 796 of them. The five not performed in private are major organ transplants,” he said.
Private Healthcare Australia CEO Dr Rachel David said the time for more reports and inquiries was finished and the focus needed to shift to solving the problems.
“Maintaining the balance between our private and public systems is vital. Without further reforms to address rising healthcare costs, people will be forced into the public system. This will result in longer hospital waiting times, and a shortage of beds for the people who need them most,” said Dr David.
Mr Roff welcomed additional debate on health insurance, but said it needed to be a genuine discussion of ideas – based on facts and a real understanding of the system, not notions of how things were last century.
“We need to ensure there is genuine, sector-wide and Government cooperation to address issues. This means not simply adopting simplistic health insurer proposals to stop paying for services or denying their members’ access to high quality care if a health fund bean counter thinks they should only get access to a cut-price option.
“We know out-of-pocket medical costs are a cause of consumer dissatisfaction and there is a collaborative process underway to address that issue.
“Recent revelations about major health funds illegally rejecting customer claims mean we need to review if current regulations are strong enough. But we also need a discussion about the role of so-called junk policies – are they products that are fit for purpose or do they ultimately undermine the value proposition of private health?” Mr Roff said.