Members Health says public waiting lists reinforce importance of PHI

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Members Health has pointed to new data showing an increase in public hospital waiting lists as further evidence of the importance of private health insurance.

Members Health represents 26 not-for-profit or member-owned health funds. Its member funds cover around three million Australians.

It said new data shows the number of people on public hospital waiting lists has risen to 324,000.

"The rapidly growing public hospital backlog has made the benefits of private health insurance, more apparent than ever," said Members Health, adding the significant factor has been the imposition of restrictions on elective surgery in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This COVID-19 legacy is causing enormous pain, suffering and hardship on hundreds-of-thousands of Australians on public wait lists whose surgery has been delayed well beyond the clinically recommended timeframes,” said Members Health CEO Matthew Koce.

“Delayed access to care can result in dependence on opioid pain killers, increased complexity of surgery down the track and trigger all sorts of other health issues that further impact quality of life. These are people who cannot see properly due to cataracts, people who cannot walk because their hips or knees need to be replaced or women in pain due to endometriosis.”

The data shows public hospital waiting lists have grown by 20 per cent in New South Wales, 19.2 per cent in Western Australia and 41 per cent in Victoria, compared to last year. 

“The National Wait List may be even higher as most states have failed to provide any elective surgery data since June and the Queensland Health Minister suspended public hospital performance reporting back in February,” said Mr Koce.

“It may take more than two years to clear the massive public hospital backlog and return to pre-pandemic levels. People with private health cover, on the other hand, are guaranteed to get the care they need, from the doctor of their choice, as quickly as possible.”

“No matter what your stage of life, private health insurance has enormous value,” continued Mr Koce. “The last thing a younger person would want is to miss out on the best part of their life because they are languishing in pain on a public hospital waiting list for two or more years."

“More than 2.3 million people are admitted for elective surgery each year in Australia, with more than 60 per cent of those procedures taking place in a private hospital.

Private health insurance guarantees timely access to a wide range of doctors and specialists, private hospitals and services. It allows people to avoid public hospital waiting lists and in doing so, takes strain off of the public system,” added Mr Koce.