Australian Private Hospitals Association chief executive Michael Roff has dismissed the Greens’ plan to scrap the private health insurance rebate, warning of the untold consequences it would have on Australia’s health system.
Greens leader Dr Richard Di Natale has called the rebate “wasteful” and said it had failed at easing pressure on public hospitals.
Senator Di Natale said the money needed to be spent in the public system where it would take the pressure off hospital waiting lists, reduce waiting times in emergency departments and help fund public dental care.
But Mr Roff slated the plan, saying the removal of the rebate would erode patient choice and funnel more patients into a public system not equipped to deal with such a high volume of admissions.
“The benefits to the public system of the rebate are clear and the Greens need to check the latest figures to understand what is really happening in the hospital system,” Mr Roff said.
“Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures released just a fortnight ago show private hospital admissions outstrip public – 4 per cent versus 3.2 per cent growth between 2010-11 and 2014-15.”
Figures from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority show private hospitals have treated an additional 12.4 million patients since the rebate was introduced in 1999.
Mr Roff said the figures were a clear reflection of the private sector’s commitment to providing a high level of patient care.
“Our focus is on patients getting the right health care when they need it and the evidence shows positive patient outcomes through the rebate,” he said.
Mr Roff said private hospitals are an invaluable part of Australia’s health system and that the private and public sectors needed to coexist for the benefit of patients.
“If the rebate was removed and insurance membership dropped to pre-rebate levels, the public system would be up for a bill of around $8 billion per year to meet the additional demand on public hospitals – money that would need to be raised through increased taxes,” he said.
“The rebate is not a magic pudding, it is a sound policy making a real difference to patient access to care where and when they want it and is giving a significant boost to the budget at the same time.”