Private Health Insurance Review... Is It Worth The Money?

28/10/2015 3:32 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST
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Fairfax/Alex Ellinghausen

CANBERRA -- Health Minister Sussan Ley has launched a seventh review into Australia’s health care system, this time private health insurance, acknowledging increasing consumer concern about "value for money or lack thereof" in the system.

Ley flagged the move, which follows six other health care reviews, during an address to the National Press Club in Canberra.

She announced the Health Department will conduct roundtable discussions on private health insurance with key industry and consumer representatives, while consumer feedback will be sought online.

The Minister said “everything is on the table”, meaning the future of rebates, greater competition in healthcare, and controversially, possibly allowing private healthcare providers into general practice will be part of the discussions.

“This is essential to ensure we can find inefficiencies and unnecessary regulatory burdens in the system that will free up private health providers, offer consumers the best value services available,” Ley told the National Press Club.

“Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with the value for money or lack thereof they are currently receiving from their private health insurance products.”

“As are our taxpayers with an annual $6 billion investment.”

The roundtable discussions will be chaired by the former Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Professor Graeme Samuel.

The private healthcare industry has welcomed the review, saying it is looking forward to improving consumer value and correcting the record on private health insurance.

Private Healthcare Australia’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Michael Armitage said the Government must have an open mind.

“It will allow the industry once and for all to address a number of the myths about the industry that are propagated by opponents of the industry and people whom the industry pays for their services on behalf of our members,” Armitage said.

Today’s announcement comes after reviews into the Medicare Benefits Scheme, mental health care, and after-hours primary health care.

“There is certainly questions that need to be asked such as perhaps the current ancillary model would be better directed to encourage Australians to save for their out of pocket primary care expenses, perhaps specifically for their later years.”

Statistics show just over half the Australian population, 55.9 percent, is covered by private health insurance, with 47.4 percent of the population holding hospital cover.

The Health Minister stressed she is not embarking on a cost cutting exercise. “I don't see my job as find more savings in health. I want to make that clear,” Ley said.

“We want to rebuild the health system and keep it sustainable and in the process make the services and the opportunities that Australian patients have the best possible ones we can.”

Ten months into the job, Ley said she is trying to make a lasting impact.

"As a former Health Minister once told me, the average term for a Health Minister is 20 months so I took that message on," she revealed.

"I'm here for a good time, not for a long time... and determined to get on with it."

"So that all of the reforms I have set up last beyond this election cycle and undoubtedly beyond my term as Health Minister, long though I may hope it will be."

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