Stephen Duckett is the health program director at the Grattan Institute.
According to the organisation's website, "It was formed in 2008 in response to a widespread view in government and business that Australia needed a non-partisan think tank providing independent, rigorous and practical solutions to some of the country’s most pressing problems."
It has issued multiple reports on policy related to pharmaceuticals and private health care. The Institute has been highly critical of the private health insurance and private hospital sectors.
In a tweet posted late last week, Mr Duckett said:
"Roses are red, Violets are blue, I work at Grattan, and what we say is true. We hate rent seekers, and terrible waste, Equity's also our goal, with passionate haste."
The tweet was part of the annual #HealthPolicyValentine movement in which people tweet in support of a range of related issues.
However, in response to Mr Duckett, the CEO of the Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA), Michael Roff, tweeted:
"'What we say is true'. Lol, pity you didn’t know private hospitals are paid on an episodic basis."
The tweet related to a recent report in which the Institute asserted private hospital costs are rising and putting upward pressure on private health insurance premiums.
Mr Duckett claimed during an ABC Radio interview that private hospital costs were rising ‘very rapidly’ and private hospital length of stay is longer than in public hospitals.
However, according to the APHA, "The facts are clear, data from the independent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows private hospital length of stay was 2.2 days in 2017-2018 compared to 3.0 days in public hospitals.
"Some of this difference is due to private hospitals performing two thirds of all same day admissions, but when these are excluded from both sectors, the average length of stay in private hospitals is 5.2 days, still lower than the public average of 5.4 days."
The two exchanged further tweets but then Mr Duckett tweeted this Sunday morning:
"A bit late I know, but just discovered this #HealthpolicyValentine from Ayn Rand: Roses are red, Violets are blue, Finish this poem yourself, You dependent parasite."
Ayn Rand was a writer and philosopher who died in 1982. It is unclear who it is directed at but Mr Duckett's original tweet contains the line "We hate rent seekers".
The Grattan Institute's board includes a senior CSL executive and a former Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Medibank Private is also one of its largest private sector supporters.