News Life and Health29 Nov 2019

Australia:Call to reduce preventable hospitalisation to reduce health premiums

29 Nov 2019

A proposal has been raised for efforts to be made to reduce preventable hospitalisation to order to curb rising health insurance premiums.

Ms Pru Goward is professor of social interventions and policy at Western Sydney University, in an article in Sydney Morning Herald, says that Australia’s hospital costs increasingly reflect preventable admissions.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows that between 2012-13 and 2016-17, rates of vaccine-preventable admissions rose by 23.8% on average each year. Hepatitis and pneumonia vaccines sit in there. Chronic and acute preventable admissions also rose, with the exception of diabetes complications, which fell. Urinary tract infections make up the largest group of acute entries and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease account for the most common preventable admission among chronic conditions.

Overall, Australians in hospital with preventable admissions (which doesn’t mean cured but well enough to stay home) make up 10% of all hospital bed days. Private hospitals have more than 3% of preventable bed days.

Senior citizens

Prof Goward, who has also served eight years as a minister in the NSE government, notes that people over 65, who form 15% of Australia’s population, account for almost half of all hospital patient days. Their use is growing much faster than their number. Critically, the elderly also account for just under half of all preventable admissions.

Demonstrably, Australia needs to invest more in preventable health strategies for older people if the country is to reduce its hospitalisation bill and insurance premiums as well as improve their quality of life. There are already strategies for falls, vaccination programmes for older peoples and improvements in safety in public places, but more can be done.

Prof Goward says that private health insurance could be a major player. A significant percentage of older people have private health insurance; greater preventive investment in older populations by health funds would directly improve the bottom lines of insurers and, with it, relentlessly increasing premiums.

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