More funding as focus moves to 'harvesting'

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The debate over public hospital funding is not clearly splitting along party lines following last week's meeting of federal, state and territory health ministers.

Following the meeting, health minister Greg Hunt announced agreements with New South Wales and the recently elected Mark McGowan led Labor government in Western Australia.

However, the Labor led governments in Victoria and South Australia, who are both facing elections, have so far refused to accept the deal.

Under the new five-year deal offered by Mr Hunt, the federal government has committed to provide an additional $30 billion for public hospitals, or almost $128 billion. It will continue to pay 45 per cent of hospital funding but cap annual growth in federal spending at 6.5 per cent.

Mr McGowan said at a press conference after last week's meeting that states like South Australia could afford to oppose the deal with their share of the GST. Western Australia is pushing for an increase in its share of GST payments.

The agreements include specific measures to resolve the practice of states 'harvesting' privately insured patients through their accident and emergency wards. 

Under the 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."

Mr Hunt recently said he hoped to use the new hospital agreements to address the practice that is forcing up private health insurance premiums.

Recent data has shown rapid recent growth in the number of public hospital separations funded by private health insurers.

In South Australia, one hospital used 'Patient Liaison Officers' to encourage patients to elect to use their private health insurance, for the explicit purpose of revenue raising. Patients are admitted as 'private for accommodation only', meaning they have no choice of doctor, are treated as a public patient, and the only purpose - stated - of electing to use their private health insurance is to raise money for the hospital.