Health ministers to review PHI use in public hospitals

Latest News

Federal, state and territory health ministers have agreed to commission an independent review of the utilisation of private health insurance in public hospitals.

The ministers announced the planned review in their communiqué of last week's meeting of the Council of Australian Governments Health Council.

The utilisation of private health insurance in public hospitals has emerged as a significant issue in recent years.

Several state and territories have instituted formal processes in their public hospitals to encourage patients to nominate to be treated as privately insured, including quotas.

A Department of Health discussion paper released last year found that, if the number of private patients in the public sector had grown at the same rate as private patients in private hospitals since 2010-11, premiums in 2015-16 would have been about 2.5 percent lower.

Health minister Greg Hunt has said the federal government will aim to use the new public hospital funding agreements to address the practice.

The new five-year agreements governments will, "...develop reform initiatives to improve admission policy and practices to support patient choice, and to deliver comprehensive data provision and more consistent financial reporting on private patients." 

In the communiqué from last week's meeting, the ministers agreed to, "...commission an independent review of a range of factors regarding utilisation of private health insurance in public hospitals to report as soon as possible but no later than 31 December 2018."

Ministers also agreed to consider a report being developed by the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Out-of-Pocket Costs including specific fee transparency options so that "decisive actions can be agreed."

They also backed the national opt-out approach to the My Health Record, which has been the subject of some controversy and concern, and proposed measures recently announced by Mr Hunt to strengthen privacy and security provisions.