Competition Chief Wants Failed US Health System For Australia – 17 March 2000

Calls by National Competition Council President, Mr Graeme Samuels, for the introduction of a layer of corporate middlemen, called Health Improvement Agencies, who would intervene to manage care for patients, have been rejected by the Australian Doctors’ Fund as nothing more than a misguided attempt to introduce the failed US health care system into Australia.

Mr Samuels, in a speech to a World Bank Conference on 29 February 2000, claimed that the difficulties experienced by the Australian health care system could be resolved by increasing competition among hospitals, doctors and others in the health system and that forced competition though intervening corporate middlemen was the solution.

Mr Samuels writes that “…corporatised Health Improvement Agencies (HIAs) compete to act as purchasing agents for consumers”

However Mr Samuels suggestions run foul of reality as Dr Linda Peeno, a former managed care middleman writing in the latest issue of the US legal journal, TRIAL, states, “The great costs of management could only be justified by our denials of care.  It was then that I realized that we had constructed a complex, highly efficient denial machine, designed to extract every dollar possible poured in through premiums.”

“Mr Samuels’ speech is nothing more than a call for the wholesale importation of US style managed health care policies, health maintenance organisations, and the innumerable layers of corporate bureaucrats featherbedding and rationing care to patients in the US health care system.”

“Why anybody would be advocating policies which have consistently proved themselves successful at raising health insurance premiums, rationing care to patients,driving down shares prices, forcing record compensation payments to patients and opening the flood gates to red ink all over balance sheets is beyond me.”

“Mr Samuels’ suggestions would be the worst possible calamity to fall upon Australian patients.  Insurance clerks, accountants, and call centre operators denying treatments to patients does not make for better health outcomes.”

Mr Milgate said, “Mr Samuels’ health care solutions are a worry.  Doctors need to collaborate, co-operate, and confer with each other constantly for the sake of their patients, not compete with each other.  Patients do not want doctors competing over who cuts out who’s brain tumour out.”

“Forced competition does nothing to help patients, and in the long term does nothing for corporate balance sheets either.  Mr Samuels would do better to advocate for health care reform founded on medical savings accounts, catastrophe insurance, and a fall back safety net for all, the only real long term answer to Australian health financing problems.”