Doctors Call On Health Minister To Deny US Health Care Agenda – 30 January 1997

The Australian Doctors’ Fund has called on the Federal Health Minister, Dr Michael Wooldridge, to denounce plans by the Australian Health Insurance Association which would see health funds dictating medical treatment to patients and General Practitioners paid incentives to ration treatment.

The plans, reported by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Daily Telegraph on Thursday 30 January 1997, were presented in a submission by the Australian Health Insurance Association (AHIA) to the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Private Health Insurance.

“The AHIA has continually denied that its agenda was to drive Australians into a US managed health care environment” Mr Stephen Milgate, Executive Director of the Australian Doctors’ Fund, said in Sydney today.

“Doctors who have been opposing the introduction of US style managed health care for over two years have been accused of conducting a scare campaign. Surprise, surprise now the health funds industry body has finally admitted what we have been saying all along.”

“The AHIA wants an environment where health funds will be able to tell doctors how to treat patients and they want their hands on Medicare. They want a system that will dictate terms to General Practitioners and will restrict choice of doctor and hospital for those Australians with private health cover.”

Mr Milgate said “The AHIA is pushing for the removal of compulsory conditions which insist that health funds provide mandatory cover for psychiatric, rehabilitation and palliative care.”

“In the United States managed health care companies, known as Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs), have made astonishing profits by rationing health care and creaming the profits.”

“Doctors in the US have been rendered powerless by anti-trust laws to fight these powerful corporates. Patients who have been denied treatment find it almost impossible to fight a powerful health fund although many have successfully been able to win damages cases and people like Ralph Nader are now staunch critics of US style managed health care.”

“The managed health care system is evil. It denies care to the sick, it reduces sick patients to commodities known as ‘covered lives’. It is economic rationalism at it ugliest” Mr Milgate said.