ABC Radio AM interview with Dr Rachel David re Medibank being cleared in the Federal Court

Station: ABC Radio Canberra
Program: AM
Date: 31/08/2017
Time: 8:13 AM
Compere: Sabra Lane
Interviewees: Dr Rachel David, CEO, Private Healthcare Australia; Rob Sims, Chairman, ACCC; and Leanne Wells, CEO, Consumers Health Forum of Australia


SABRA LANE: The health insurer Medibank Private has been cleared of misleading and unconscionable conduct in the Federal Court, but the consumer watchdog – the ACCC – may appeal yesterday’s decision. Regardless of that outcome, consumer groups say private health funds are still under pressure to make their policies easier to understand. Samantha Donovan reports.
REPORTER: Sam Harrison was hoping the ACCC would win its case against Medibank Private. She left the insurer after it refused to cover more than $1000 worth of expenses.
SAM HARRISON: You cannot change the cover that you provide to people and not tell them, because you make decisions based on the information you have at hand.
REPORTER: The ACCC had argued Medibank made false representations and engaged in unconscionable conduct by failing to tell its members it was limiting benefits for hospital pathology and radiology services. The ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, is disappointed the Federal Court dismissed the case.
ROD SIMS: We just feel there’s a fundamental principle that private health insurers need to be telling their customers when they make a major change to the policy so that their customers don’t find out about that only when they go to hospital.
REPORTER: Federal Court Judge David O’Callaghan ruled that no reasonable consumer would read the Medibank documents and think they’d be covered for all hospital diagnostic services. Medibank has welcomed the decision. It says it’s making good progress in improving its customer service, but there’s always more to be done. Private Healthcare Australia is the peak body for health funds. Its CEO, Dr Rachel David, says regardless of the Federal Court decision the industry is making changes.
RACHEL DAVID: We’ve been working with the Federal Government and we think that pretty soon we’re going to be able to announce ways in which we’ll be classifying health insurance products and helping consumers navigate the system so that they can make better choices, and when they come to use their health insurance we’ll be using standard clinical terminology so they’ll have a better chance of knowing what they’re covered for.
REPORTER: Leanne Wells is the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia. Like the ACCC, she’s disappointed with the Federal Court decision, but she doesn’t think it’ll stop the push towards clearer health insurance policies.
LEANNE WELLS: Because I think there’s quite a bit of momentum. There’s a private health insurance ministerial taskforce looking at reform in the area, and one of the key areas for change and improvement is about getting better, clearer, much more dependable, much more simple, much more clear information out to consumers about policies so that they can make choices and weigh it up.
SABRA LANE: Leanne Wells from the Consumers Health Forum of Australia ending Samantha Donovan’s report.
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