APHA: Report's claim 'absolute rubbish'

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Australia's private hospital sector has joined health insurers in slamming a Grattan Institute report on private health insurance.

The new report, 'The history and purposes of private health insurance', was launched earlier this week and triggered a dismissive response from the sector.

Private Healthcare Australia said it was "light on solutions" and just "repeats age-old questions" about how to fund healthcare.

According to the Grattan Institute, "Australia’s private health insurance industry fears it is in a death spiral, and politicians need to rethink whether or to what extent taxpayers should continue to subsidise the industry." 

However, the Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) said the report revealed a "complete lack of understanding of the contribution of the private health sector to Australian health care.

“The report – which by its own admission raises questions but provides no answers – fails to understand the basics of private hospital care. This is concerning when it claims to be the basis for discussing Government support of health insurance," said CEO Michael Roff.

“As a basis for policy-maker decision making, its failure to understand what private hospitals offer Australians it is a poor starting point for the debate.”

Mr Roff described the report's claim complex procedures requiring specialised equipment and skills are rarely available in private hospitals as "absolute rubbish".

"New technology and equipment are almost universally introduced first into the private system. A good example of this is robotic surgery. Commonplace now in major private and public hospitals, this technology was pioneered in Australia at the Epworth, a private hospital in Melbourne," he said.

“There are 801 procedures available in public hospitals, private hospitals perform 796 of them. The five not performed in private are major organ transplants,” he said.

The private hospital boss said a debate was welcomed but "needs to be a genuine discussion of ideas – based on facts and a real understanding of the system, not notions of how things were last century."

Mr Roff continued, “We need to ensure there is genuine, sector-wide and Government cooperation to address issues. This means not simply adopting simplistic health insurer proposals to stop paying for services or denying their members’ access to high quality care if a health fund bean counter thinks they should only get access to a cut-price option.

“We know out-of-pocket medical costs are a cause of consumer dissatisfaction and there is a collaborative process underway to address that issue.

“Recent revelations about major health funds illegally rejecting customer claims mean we need to review if current regulations are strong enough. But we also need a discussion about the role of so-called junk policies – are they products that are fit for purpose or do they ultimately undermine the value proposition of private health?” he asked.