The Consumers Health Forum, an advocacy organisation on consumer healthcare issues, yesterday released several articles which it said should prompt the government to boost the scope of its private health care review. In particular, the articles question the worth of private health insurance for many people, particularly those with chronic illnesses.
The comments are made by 20 authors representing consumer leaders, clinicians, health funds and analysts. “Most of these articles are pointing to serious inadequacies whether it be in relation to the cost and complexity of insurance, the meagre coverage for many people particularly the chronically ill, or ineffectiveness of government subsidies which are supposed to ease public hospital waiting times,” said CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Ms Leanne Wells.
“The Consumers Health Forum has argued for the government to use the health insurance rebate to drive reform in health insurance so that those policies which don’t meet consumer-friendly criteria in terms of transparency, simplicity and comparabililty, would forfeit the rebate.”
Former leading bureaucrat and business executive, John Menadue, has written that health insurance is inequitable, wasteful and represents a grave threat to Medicare’s power to control health costs. “Yet inefficient and unfair private health insurance is underwritten in Australia through an enormous government subsidy.” Medicare is the publicly funded universal health care system in Australia.
CHOICE’s Matt Levey says private health insurance has become a perfect storm for consumers. Premiums have increased an average of 54.6% since 2009, well ahead of the Consumer Price Index. “This toxic combination of surging prices and complexity is leading many Australians to downgrade or drop their cover completely.”
Ms Wells said Australia needs to rethink the funding of private health when premiums had in effect become “a high cost privatised tax” which failed to deliver value and certainty for consumers.