Health Insurance Commission Chairman In Untenable Position – 5 July 1999

Dr Barry Catchlove cannot remain Chairman of the Health Insurance Commission (HIC) and stay on as a senior executive and shareholder of Australia’s largest private hospital operator, Mayne Nickless, said Dr Bruce Shepherd, Chairman of the Australian Doctors’ Fund in Sydney today.

Dr Shepherd said “The public interest in health is not served by having an executive of Australia’s largest private hospital chain, with extensive interests in General Practice, radiology and pathology, services which are rebated by Medicare, also responsible for the policing of Medicare rebates and the direction of emerging commercial opportunities in e-commerce related to those services.”

The HIC is the repository of most doctors’ billing practices as well a substantial amount of patient information. Furthermore, current Legislation before Parliament (Health Legislation Amendment Bill No.3 1999) gives the HIC power to direct health funds to supply comprehensive information about health fund members.

“Already we have seen the Federal Minister for Health, Dr Wooldridge use the HIC information in an attempt to justify cuts to psychiatric services, in particular, Item 319 of the Medicare Schedule,” said Dr Shepherd

Information obtained by the Australian Doctors’ Fund under Freedom of Information indicates that the Federal Health Minister requested that the HIC search for specific information which he could use politically in order to justify controversial rationing of psychiatric Medicare rebates.

Dr Shepherd said that Dr Catchlove was a very experienced and competent health executive who appears to have been placed in an untenable situation by the Health Minister.

“It is my request that the Minister advise Dr Catchlove that it is necessary for him to abandon one of his two present positions. This in no way impugns Dr Catchlove’s ability to perform in either job but in the public interest he should be confined to one or the other,” said Dr Shepherd.