Radio National AM interview with Dr Rachel David in response to AMA comments re minimum level of cover

Station: Radio National
Program: AM
Date: 21/08/2017
Time: 7:16 AM
Compere: Sabra Lane
Interviewees: Dr Rachel David, CEO, Private Healthcare Australia and Dr Michael Gannon, President, Australian Medical Association


SABRA LANE It’s been a major bugbear for many consumers, and now doctors are claiming the time has come for the Government to act now to secure better deals for those with private health insurance. The issue’s been under review with a report due by years end; but the Australian Medical Association believes enough is known about rip-offs with so-called junk health plans, that it’s calling for changes to the law now to ensure all policies have a minimum level of cover.  Stephanie Dalzell reports.
REPORTER: The Head of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Michael Gannon, has run out of patience with private health insurers.
MICHAEL GANNON We’ve seen a proliferation of junk policies which are worth nothing more than the paper they’re written on, and are purely designed so that people avoid the tax penalty.
REPORTER: The AMA is pushing a plan to streamline thousands of private health insurance policies into simple gold, silver, and bronze categories so people know what they’re paying for.
MICHAEL GANNON There are people who have carefully, dutifully, responsibly, put aside money for private health insurance so the many years and many cases, and then when they get sick they find they’re not covered. So policies for Australians over the age of 60 that exclude them from having their hips or knees fixed, or having their eyes fixed, are silly. Policies that literally will enable a single man to access maternity care but exclude him from something else that he might need are, again, so ridiculous it would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.
REPORTER: The plan is already being considered by a federal government advisory committee, which includes doctors and private health insurers. It’s due to report by the end of the year, but Dr Gannon doesn’t want to wait for that. He wants the law changed now, so that all policies have to have a minimum standard.
MICHAEL GANNON: The Government has the power to legislate to make sure that they are worthwhile for the people who take them out.
REPORTER: Dr Rachel David is the CEO of Private Healthcare Australia; which represents private health insurers. She’s also on the government’s advisory committee, but she doesn’t support legislative changes.
RACHEL DAVID: The last thing we want is for the whole private sector to be tied up in so much red tape that that in itself pushes health fund premiums up. But I think there are some things to make it easier for consumers to choose and use their health insurance that have been looked at that will require regulatory change. It’s not going to be major, but the health insurance industry at least is committed to the process and committed to doing the right thing by consumers.
REPORTER: In the meantime, she says consumers need to carefully check their private health insurance policies.
RACHEL DAVID: People do need to re-check every few years to make sure that the product they have meets their needs, particularly as they get older. Many people have been with a particular health fund on a particular product for a very long time, and as they get older their health needs change. And it might be worth just checking in from time to time.
REPORTER: In a statement, a spokesman for the Health Minister Greg Hunt, says the Government is working hard to ensure private health insurance is value for money, and will consider the advisory committee’s report when it’s delivered.
SABRA LANE Stephanie Dalzell with that report.
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