AMA: Choice 'irresponsible' over PHI for young

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AMA national president Dr Michael Gannon has called Choice "irresponsible" for encouraging young Australians to drop their private health insurance.

Speaking during an interview with ABC Brisbane, which also included Private Healthcare Australia CEO Dr Rachel David and Tom Godfrey from Choice, Dr Gannon said, "One thing which is a reality of life is falling pregnant - around 50 per cent of pregnancies are unplanned - and that leaves uninsured people without the ability to choose the private system."

He continued, "It's really important. We've dealt with two unpredictable things that happen to people, when they otherwise think they're going very well and are very healthy. One of those is the acute mental health episode and one of those is falling pregnant."

During his interview, Mr Godfrey promoted Choice's website, which he claimed helped younger Australians assess whether they actually need private cover.

However, a review of the website shows it is heavily biased against the need for private health insurance. It does not ask any questions about health. It only assesses someone's need for health insurance on the basis of their income and potential need to pay the Medicare levy surcharge.

Dr Gannon dismissed Choice's argument. "...The real story here, in terms of, oh, it's not an emergency, is that the reality is if you have a major motor vehicle accident, if you develop a significant life threatening health problem, you will be very capably looked after in the public hospital system," said Dr Gannon.

"Where the private system comes into its own are for those less urgent things, where sometimes you sit on a waiting list for months if not years.

"If you are Tom's healthy 24-year old tradie, and you do a cartilage in your knee, you might wait months to get an orthopaedic appointment. You might wait weeks or months to have surgery...that might leave you vulnerable to addiction to painkillers. It might leave you unable to do your job. Health insurance is not about a climate of fear. Things go wrong in life."