3AW Breakfast program interview with Dr Rachel David on premium reductions

Station: 3AW
Program: Breakfast
Date: 7/04/2020
Time: 8:12 AM
Compere: Ross Stevenson
Interviewee: Dr Rachel David, CEO, Private Healthcare Australia


ROSS STEVENSON: Health fund members could be in line for hundreds of dollars in cash payments or premium reductions as insurers hand back windfall profit. Dr Rachel David, Chief Executive of Private Healthcare Australia. Doctor, how have insurers made windfall profits?
RACHEL DAVID: Well look, we’ve had quite a bit of commentary that we’ve seen in media that because the regular dental and Allied Health services that fund members have been accessing can’t operate as normal during the crisis and because some non-emergency surgery, the non-urgent surgery has been cancelled, that health funds wouldn’t be paying out claims at the same rate over the next four to six months.

So we’ve done a few things already. We’ve put off a planned price rise on the first of April, pending a reviews later in the year. And we’ve also set up hardship funds in every fund so that people in financial distress can suspend their premium.

However, if it looks like health funds are accumulating abnormal profits, as a result of the crisis, we will look at ways of ensuring that members get that money back.

ROSS STEVENSON: How do they- how would you do that? Will you just write us a cheque?
RACHEL DAVID: Well that’s a possibility but that’s not the only way and we’re looking at ways in which we can do that like a reduction in premiums down the track, if in fact this happens or in fact, even been paying the money back.
ROSS STEVENSON: Doc, this is the thought that occurred to me when I woke up this morning and maybe it’s not within your purview but maybe it is. Are we getting any sense as to when we might be able to start elective surgery again?
RACHEL DAVID: Well look, some of this is still being debated at the federal and state and territory government level, but I understand that the agreements are going to be finalised pretty soon about what their hospitals can still do during the crisis and what needs to be put off. But I understand they have like a nominal date of 30 September, as for when everything comes back to normal. But if it looks like we’re getting on top of things earlier, that is subject to review and so it could even be earlier than that.
ROSS STEVENSON: Yeah. You’d rather hope it was earlier than 30 September because some things that are regarded as elective surgery for example, a colonoscopy is regarded as elective.
RACHEL DAVID: Well that’s right. And what we will see at the end of this is quite a lot of build up of demand for elective surgery, particularly for things that are causing people pain and distress like severe arthritis.

So we are expecting at the end of this, that on the public side, they’ll be a very, very big blowout waiting list times time. So we are urging people, even though things are a bit slower on the private health side because of the crisis, to hang on to their health insurance. There are things that we’re doing to keep it affordable during this time because it will be very difficult to access a number of common procedures in the public sector.

ROSS STEVENSON: Good on you, doc. We thank you for your time. Dr Rachel David, Chief Executive of Private Healthcare Australia.
* * END * *