Public hospitals the biggest rorters: Roff

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In Tuesday’s The Australian Financial Review, Terry Barnes, a former employee of Medibank Private, pleaded with healthcare providers to put an end to the “rorts” that he believes are responsible for health insurance premiums increasing.

Mr Barnes said there are “three big-bang, no brainer” purchasing reforms Health Minister Sussan Ley should implement. “First, abolish private hospital default benefits,” he said. “Second, end prostheses purchasing rorts.” And “Third, let patients be directly guided by insurers when choosing doctors and hospitals, including allowing them to delegate choice to the insurer.”

APHA chief Michael Roff responded with a Letter to the Editor, highlighting the real rort responsible for health insurance premiums increasing, and one Mr Barnes neglected to mention.

To the editor,

Terry Barnes’ emotional plea for healthcare providers to put an end to the “rorts” that he believes are responsible for health insurance premiums increasing is superficial and fails to address the true cause of rising healthcare costs in the public and private sectors.

The biggest rort is that health insurers are paying benefits to public hospitals for providing services that every Australian is entitled to receive free. One can only assume Mr Barnes neglected to mention said rort because he is a former employee of Australia’s largest health fund, Medibank Private.

For too long public hospitals have been siphoning more than $1 billion a year from the coffers of Australia’s health funds. They do this by forcing patients to sign private patient election forms against their will. Some aren’t even offered a choice.

Patients receive no extra benefits when they are treated as a private patient in a public hospital, but health fund members are made to foot the bill. The government also suffers, with cost shifting forcing it to cover part of the in-hospital medical costs.

Putting an end to this regulatory rort could bring the annual cost of an average health insurance premium down by almost $200. In turn, the Commonwealth would save almost $500 million a year in Medicare Benefits Schedule payments.

Wouldn’t that qualify as what Mr Barnes describes as a “big-bang, no-brainer reform”?

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