New leadership for private health policy

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Mark Cormack is the Department of Health's new deputy secretary responsible for private health insurance policy.

Mr Cormack officially succeeds Andrew Stuart, who recently retired from the public service, and Penny Shakespeare who has been acting in the role since late August.

Ms Shakespeare is returning to her previous position as first assistant secretary of the Technology, Assessment and Access' division, formerly known as the Pharmaceutical Benefits Division.

The 'TAA' division also includes responsibility for private health insurance policy, a ministerial advisory committee on private health, as well as the recently created Office of Health Technology Assessment. The 'Office', the brainchild of Andrew Stuart, includes a central administrative point for three key technical advisory committees focussed on health technology assessment; Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, Medical Services Advisory Committee and Prostheses List Advisory Committee.

Mr Cormack's 'Health Benefits' area also currently includes responsibility for Medicare, including diagnostic imaging, pathology and the ongoing review of the Medicare Benefits Schedule.

It remains unclear whether the area, including the TAA division, may undergo further restructure.

Mr Cormack's appointment is part of a wider restructure of the Department of Health. Recently appointed secretary Glenys Glenys Beauchamp PSM is focussed on creating a 'leaner' and less 'top-heavy' organisation.

Mr Cormack, who has been responsible for the 'Strategic Policy and Innovation' area, joined the Department in early 2015 from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

He came to prominence earlier this year after a contentious appearance at Senate Estimates with former secretary Martin Bowles PSM.

The two were extensively questioned on the work of a taskforce that looked at a range of controversial policy issues, including abolition of the private health insurance rebate and the creation of a 'commonwealth hospital benefit', with health minister Greg Hunt immediately and publicly dismissing the idea.