Private in public growth needs a cure

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New data further proves the rise in private patients in public hospitals is hurting the Australian health system, according to Australian Private Hospitals Association CEO Mr Michael Roff.

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) June 2017 data showed a six percent increase in privately funded episodes of care in the public system over the past 12 months.

That is equivalent to more than 815,000 episodes of care for privately insured patients in a public hospitals, which means public patients are delayed in getting treatment from public hospitals.

Mr Roff is concerned about the increase of private patients in public hospitals, the result of active recruitment of the privately insured patients by the public system.

“We know public hospitals are chasing this money. It’s one of the first questions patients are asked when they arrive at hospital. And public hospitals go to great lengths to encourage Australians to use their health insurance, either through offering to pay the excess, waiving out of pocket costs and offering them faster treatment,” Mr Roff said.

Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare confirmed earlier in the year that public hospitals give preferences to private patients allowing them to jump the waiting queue.

Mr Roff said it was unconscionable that public hospitals were putting patient care at the bottom of their priority list to make a quick buck from private health insurance.

“That might mean a longer, painful wait for your Mum for her hip surgery or another few months on the footy field sideline for you before you can get the ligament damage to your knee repaired. It means someone is missing out, every time,” said Mr Roff.

The increase in privately insured patients treated in the public system has led to $1.1 billion in health insurance benefits going into public hospital coffers in the year to June 2017.

If this practice did not occur it is estimated health insurance premiums would be at least six percent lower, said Mr Roff.

“This practice is lose-lose for Australians and is having a significant impact on the affordability and sustainability of the health system. Those patients using their private health insurance in the public system are unwittingly adding to the waiting list burden felt by their neighbour who does not have insurance.

“Medicare was designed so all Australians had access to health care. Now the public system is actively working against that ideal, leading to longer waiting lists, higher premiums and the two-tiered health system Australians dread,” said Mr Roff.

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