Chris Bowen: 'Agreements should be honoured'

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Shadow health minister Chris Bowen says the private health insurance sector is not in crisis but it is not "heading in the right direction".

Speaking at last week's MedTech2019 conference in Sydney, Mr Bowen described the sector's relationship with the private health insurance industry as the " most important elephant in the room".

"And there are important decisions to be made and there are plenty of people who say the only important decision lies with you; that Medtech should make a bigger contribution to reducing private health insurance premiums.

"But we do need to tackle the issues. Private health insurance coverage is at eleven-year lows at 44.6 per cent, the premiums are going up and many Australians feel they're not getting value for money."

Mr Bowen said one of Labor's pre-election solutions was a Productivity Commission inquiry into the private health insurance industry. "But alas that's not to be," he said.

The shadow minister said Labor recognises the medical device sector's contribution to reducing premiums. "It's arguable that MedTech has made the biggest contribution of anybody, certainly bigger than Government policy changes to improve the sustainability of private health insurance," he said.

"That should be recognised at the start of the conversation but there are a couple of important principles I want to lay out as well.

"Firstly, agreements should be honoured. You’ve made a contribution. You're promised five years of policy stability in return. It's important that agreements are honoured, that there's good faith between private sector and Government if undertakings are given by either side, both sides should deliver on those undertakings. That's an important principle. First important principle.

"Second important principle is if there are further discussion to be had and I'll come to that in a moment, if there are things that need to be revisited that should be done in good faith and in real collaboration."

Mr Bowen said sectors should not be "blindsided" by government. 

"There's got to be a proper exchange of information and good faith discussions. They can be robust. Indeed they probably should be. But they’ve got to be good faith, they've got to be genuine. Otherwise it's not real collaboration," he said.