Health Fund Policy ‘An Unmitigated Disaster’ – 20 May 1999

Chairman of the Australian Doctors Fund, Dr Bruce Shepherd, said today that he was “staggered” at the magnitude of the failure of the Government’s massive $1.7 billion private health insurance rebate scheme.

Dr Shepherd was commenting on figures from the Private Health Insurance Administration Council, which show that private health fund membership grew by only 57,000 in the first three months of the year, despite a massive injection of public funds which have slashed premiums for new and existing members by 30 per cent.

“I never thought this rebate would work in the first place,” said Dr Shepherd. “But even I thought it would do better than this.

“It has been an unmitigated disaster. No wonder the Minister has been swearing at unsuspecting members of the public in recent days.”

And further reforms to the system such as no gap policies and lifetime community rating would make the situation worse, he said.

In South Australia health fund membership has remained static, yet no gap policies were common.

“Why on earth should we give up our professional freedom and report to health funds, not patients, for the sake of a non solution?” said Dr Shepherd.

Dr Shepherd said it was time for the Government and the current leadership of the profession to review its whole approach to health policy.

“The Australian public wants a decent public hospital system. It also wants a decent and affordable private health system.

“It wants to be treated by doctors who are acting in their interest – not the interest of Governments or health funds.

“It is not getting any of this at the moment.”

The Australian taxpayer has paid $30,000 for everynew member of private health funds since the beginning of the year,” said Dr Shepherd. “This is too much money for too little result.”