Doctors Say No Negotiation Possible Over “No Gap” Private Health Insurance – 17 December 1999

Claims that doctors groups will now be able to sit down and negotiate with health funds following Federal Cabinet’s approval of an additional set of arrangements for ‘no gaps’ private health insurance, are not correct, said Mr Stephen Milgate, Executive Director of the Australian Doctors’ Fund.

“The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has advised doctors that group negotiation involving dealings with health funds and doctors is illegal, and may attract penalties of $500,000 per offence for individuals and $10,000,000 per offence per organisation,” said Mr Milgate.

“Doctors groups, including the AMA, have no right to group negotiate any matter concerning fees or contractual arrangements.”

“This has been a major stumbling block from day one of the Lawrence Legislation.”

The ACCC has recently refused authorisation to allow three Sydney private hospitals the right to group negotiate in dealings with health funds.

“Whilst health funds have combined in consortiums to pursue doctors over signing commercial contracts with apparent ACCC approval, doctors are threatened with punitive damages for ever discussing fees with their colleagues.”

“We see no signs of a let up by Government or big business on the bid to introduce US Style Managed Care.”

“There will not be any constructive and meaningful dialogue between the medical profession and private health insurance industry until the democratic right to group representation has been restored in its entirety to the medical profession and the ACCC’s unhelpful interventions removed, along with the repeal of the failed Lawrence legislation,” Mr Milgate said.