APHA: Pandemic a disruption in trend towards private use

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The Australian Private Hospitals Association says the latest statistical update from the prudential regulator confirms an ongoing trend towards the use of private hospitals but also the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The update from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) reported 3.73 million private hospital episodes over the twelve months to the end of March 2020 - an increase of 1.1 per cent compared to the previous year.

"This is despite the fact there was a decline in the number of Australians with health insurance," said the association in a statement.

According to APHA CEO Michael Roff, “We know Australians have been using their insurance to get the care they need. They value the private hospital system allowing them to access care at a time that suits them, with the doctor of their choice.

“Unfortunately, due to the response to COVID-19, where private hospital resources were committed to being available for pandemic related services, and due to the restrictions on elective surgery, many insured patients have been unable to access the essential surgery they require.

“The pandemic has made it clear to all the fundamental value proposition of private health insurance is providing access to private hospitals.

“Now surgical services are starting to come back on line sooner than was originally envisaged, we hope the health insurance companies remember what their product is really about. They need to ensure every Australian with health insurance has a product that will cover them for the services they need in a private hospital,” said Mr Roff.

APHA said the "next challenge" is to ensure the sector can return to normal levels of elective surgery and clearly the backlog.