AMA: Public system would 'likely collapse' without private

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The AMA says it expects significant long-term funding commitments on primary care in the upcoming Budget and election policies.

The federal government has brought forward the Budget to early April and the election is expected to be held in May.

In its 2019-20 pre-Budget submission, the AMA is focused on what it calls the major pillars of the health system – public hospitals, the private health sector, PBS and primary care.

It says it does plan to release a broader policy agenda - encompassing Indigenous health, public health, prevention, and other issues - ahead of the election.

It says the public health system "would likely collapse" without the private system but adds it believes in a "simpler and fairer private health insurance system."

According to the AMA in its submission, "Already we have struggling public hospitals - we can’t allow this to get any worse. It was impossible for consumers to understand the multiplicity of carveouts, restrictions and exclusions of the 70,000 variations of policies, that made up our Private Health Insurance system. Something had to change.

"This is the reason the AMA supported the Government’s reforms of Private Health Insurance, including the concept of developing the Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Basic health insurance products – but we believe we must go further.

"The AMA has been at the table for private health insurance reforms working alongside insurers, hospital groups, consumer groups, and Government on an approach we can all agree on, and we have been at the table on out-of-pocket costs. But there is no doubt that further reform is needed, and it needs to consider the full range of underlying concerns our patients have."

It backs transparency in out-of-pocket consumer costs but calls on the government to establish a website that includes comprehensive details beyond just doctor fees, including rebates provided by private health insurers.

It also calls on the government to fund an "extensive" consumer education campaign on private health insurance reforms and additional resources for the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman (PHIO).

On the ongoing review of Medicare (MBS), the AMA calls for an "increase the lead time" the government provides before new MBS items take effect. It also wants more information on the "methodology and logic" behind any changes to "give the funds [private health insurers] the chance to consider and make appropriate changes, and to guard against funding reductions."