Informed, engaged communities for health

Filter by Categories
Aged care
Budgets
Federal Budget 2024-25
Federal Budget 2023-2024
Federal Budget October 2022
Federal Budget 2022-23
Federal Budget 2021-22
Climate and health
Climate emergency
Healthcare sustainability
Heatwaves
National Health and Climate Strategy
#HealthyCOP28
#HealthyCOP27
#HealthyCOP26
#CoveringClimateNow
COVID collection
COVID-19
Long COVID
COVIDwrap
COVID SNAPS
#JusticeCOVID
Caring for the Frontline
COVIDglobalMHseries
Croakey Conference News Service
Croakey Professional Services
NHLF series
#KidneyCareTogether
ACSQHC series
ACSQHC series 2022
ACSQHC series 2021
ACSQHC series 2020
ACSQHC series 2019
CATSINaM 25 Years
Croakey projects
@WePublicHealth 2024
Summer reading 2023-2024
The Zap
#CroakeyLIVE #DigitalNationBuilding
#CroakeyLIVE #VoiceForHealth
#PHAAThinkTank2023
The Health Wrap
ICYMI
@WePublicHealth
@WePublicHealth2023
#CroakeyVOICES
#SpeakingOurMinds
Croakey longreads
#CroakeyREAD
CroakeyEXPLORE
CroakeyGO
#CroakeyGO #NavigatingHealth
#GamblingHarms
#HeatwaveHealth
Mapping CroakeyGo
Determinants of health
Environmental determinants of health
Social determinants of health
Education
Discrimination
Housing
Internet access
Justice and policing
Justice Reinvestment
Newstart/JobSeeker
Poverty
Racism
Social policy
Commercial determinants of health
Alcohol
Arms industry
Digital platforms
Food and beverages
Fossil fuels
Gambling
Pharmaceutical industry
Plain packaging
Sugar tax
Tobacco
Vaping
Disasters and extreme weather events
Disasters
Extreme weather events
Bushfires
Bushfire-emergency 2019-2020
Floods 2023
Floods 2022
Floods 2021
Floods 2011
Donor-funded journalism
Donor-funded journalism – 2024
Donor-funded journalism – 2023
Donor-funded journalism – 2022
Donor-funded journalism – 2021
Donor-funded journalism – 2020
Elections
lutruwita/Tasmania 2024 election
#NSWvotesHealth2023
Victorian election 2022
Federal Election 2022
The Election Wrap 2022
#QldVotesHealth
SA election 2022
WA election 2021
Tasmanian election 2021
First Nations
Indigenous health
Community controlled sector
Cultural determinants of health
Cultural safety
Indigenous education
Social and emotional wellbeing
Uluru Statement
The Voice
Lowitja Institute
NT Intervention
WA community closures
Acknowledgement
#CTG10
#NTRC
#RCIADIC30Years
General health matters
Abortion
Cancer
Cardiovascular disease
Child health
Chronic conditions
Consumer health matters
Death and dying
Diabetes
Disabilities
Euthanasia
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)
Genetics
HIV/AIDS
HRT
Infectious diseases
Influenza
LGBTQIA+
Medical marijuana
Men's health
Mental health
Mpox
Non communicable diseases
Oral health
Organ transplants
Pain
Pregnancy and childbirth
Sexual health
Suicide
Swine flu
Trauma
Women's health
Youth health
Global health matters
Asylum seeker and refugee health
Conflict and war
Global health
WHO
Ebola
NHS
#WorldInTurmoil
Health policy and systems
Co-design
Health financing and costs
Health reform
Health regulation
Medicare 40 Years
MyMedicare
National Health Performance Authority
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
Private health insurance
Royal Commissions
TGA
Workforce matters
Strengthening Medicare Taskforce 2022
National Commission of Audit 2014
Healthcare
Adverse events
Allied healthcare
Australian Medical Association
Choosing Wisely
cohealth
Complementary medicines
Conflicts of interest
Co-payments
Digital technology
E-health
Emergency departments and care
Equally Well
General practice
Health Care Homes
Health ethics
Hospitals
International medical graduates
Medicare Locals
MyHospitals website
Naturopathy
NDIS
Nursing and midwifery
Out of pocket costs
Palliative care
Paramedics
Pathology
Pharmacy
Primary healthcare
Primary Health Networks
Rural and remote health
Safety and quality of healthcare and aged care
Screening
Social prescribing
Surgery
Telehealth
Tests
Media and health
Media-related issues
Health & medical marketing
Misinformation and disinformation
Public interest journalism
Social media and healthcare
The Conversation
Media Doctor Australia
News about Croakey
Public health and population health
Air pollution
Artificial intelligence
Australian Centre for Disease Control
Government 2.0
Gun control
Health communications
Health impact assessment
Health in All Policies
Health inequalities
Health literacy
Human rights
Illicit drugs
Injuries
Legal issues
Marriage equality
Nanny state
National Preventive Health Agency
Obesity
Occupational health
Physical activity
Prevention
Public health
Road safety
Sport
Transport
Vaccination
VicHealth
Violence
Web 2.0
Weight loss products
#PreventiveHealthStrategy
#UnmetNeedsinPublicHealth
Research matters
Cochrane Collaboration
Evidence-based issues
Health and medical education
Health and medical research
NHMRC
#MRFFtransparency
The Croakey Archives
#cripcroakey
#HealthEquity16
#HealthMatters
#IHMayDay (all years)
#IHMayDay 2014
#IHMayDay15
#IHMayday16
#IHMayDay17
#IHMayDay18
#LoveRural 2014
Croakey Conference News Service 2013 – 2023
2023 Conferences
#GreenHealthForum23
#hpsymposium2023
#NMS23
#HEAL2023
#ASMIRT2023
#NSPC23
Our Democracy Forum
#AskMSF
#Lowitja2023
2022 Conferences
#16nrhc
#GreenHealthForum22
#Heal2022
#ICEM22
#NAISA22
#NNF2022
#RANZCP2022
#RethinkAddiction
#RTP22
GiantSteps22
Equally Well 2022 Symposium
Choosing Wisely National Meeting 2022
2021 conferences
#21OPCC
#BackToTheFire
#FoodGovernance2021
#GiantSteps21
#GreenHealthForum21
#HealthClimateSolutions21
#HearMe21
#IndigenousClimateJustice21
#NNF2021
#RANZCP2021
#ShiftingGearsSummit
#ValueBasedCare
#WCepi2021
#YHFSummit
2020 conferences
#2020ResearchExcellence
#Govern4Health
#HealthReImagined
#SAHeapsUnfair
2019 Conferences
#ACEM19
#CPHCE19
#EquallyWellAust
#GiantSteps19
#HealthAdvocacyWIM
#KTthatWorks
#LowitjaConf2019
#MHAgeing
#NNF2019
#OKtoAsk2019
#RANZCOG19
#RANZCP2019
#ruralhealthconf
#VMIAC2019
#WHOcollabAHPRA
2018 conferences
#6rrhss
#ACEM18
#AHPA2018
#ATSISPC18
#CPHCE
#MHED18
#NDISMentalHealth
#Nurseforce
#OKToAsk2018
#RANZCOG18
#ResearchIntoPolicy
#VHAawards
#VMIACAwards18
#WISPC18
2017 conferences
#17APCC
#ACEM17
#AIDAconf2017
#BTH20
#CATSINaM17
#ClimateHealthStrategy
#IAHAConf17
#IDS17
#LBQWHC17
#LivingOurWay
#OKtoAskAu
#OTCC2017
#ResearchTranslation17
#TheMHS2017
#VMIACConf17
#WCPH2017
Australian Palliative Care Conference
2016 conferences
#AHHAsim16
#AHMRC16
#ANROWS2016
#ATSISPEP
#AusCanIndigenousWellness
#cphce2016
#CPHCEforum16
#CRANAplus2016
#IAMRA2016
#LowitjaConf2016
#PreventObesity16
#TowardsRecovery
#VMIAC16
#WearablesCEH
#WICC2016
2015 conferences
#CPHCEforum
#CRANAplus15
#HSR15
#NRHC15
#OTCC15
Population Health Congress 2015
2014 conferences
#IPCHIV14
AIDA Conference 2014
Congress Lowitja 2014
CRANAplus conference 2014
Cultural Solutions - Healing Foundation forum 2014
Lowitja Institute Continuous Quality Improvement conference 2014
National Suicide Prevention Conference 2014
Racism and children/youth health symposium 2014
Rural & Remote Health Scientific Symposium 2014
2013 conferences
Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation Forum 2013
Australian Health Promotion Association Conference 2013
Closing the Credibility Gap 2013
CRANAplus Conference 2013
FASD Conference 2013
Health Workforce Australia 2013
International Health Literacy Network Conference 2013
NACCHO Summit 2013
National Rural Health Conference 2013
Oceania EcoHealth Symposium 2013
PHAA conference 2013
Croakey Professional Services archive
#CommunityControl
#CommunityControl Twitter Festival
#COVIDthinktank21
Lowitja Indigenous knowledge translation series
Croakey projects archive
#PHAAThinkTank 2022
Summer reading 2022-2023
#CommunityMatters
#CroakeyFundingDrive 2022
#CroakeyLIVE #Budget2021Health
#CroakeyLIVE #USvotesHealth
#CroakeyLIVE Federal election 2022
#CroakeyYOUTH
#HousingJusticeAus
#IndigenousHealthSummit
#IndigenousNCDs
#JustClimate
#JustJustice
#LookingLocal
#OutOfPocket
#OutOfTheBox
#RuralHealthJustice
#TalkingTeeth
@WePublicHealth2022
@WePublicHealth2021
@WePublicHealth2020
AroundTheTraps
Croakey register of influence
Croakey Register of Influencers in Public Health
Croakey Register of Unreleased Documents
Gavin Mooney
Inside Story
Journal Watch
Naked Doctor
Poems of Public Health
Summer reading 2021-2022
Summer reading 2020-2021
Summer Reading 2019-2020
Summer Reading 2017-2018
Summer Reading 2016-2017
The Koori Woman
TOO MUCH of a Good Thing
Wonky Health
CroakeyGO archive 2017 – 2018
CroakeyGo 2018
#CroakeyGO #QuantumWords 2018
#CroakeyGO #VicVotes 2018
#CroakeyGO Albury 2018
#CroakeyGO Callan Park 2018
#CroakeyGO Carnarvon 2018
#CroakeyGO Marrickville 2018
#CroakeyGO Palm Island 2018
CroakeyGo 2017
#CroakeyGO Adelaide 2017
#CroakeyGO Melbourne 2017
#CroakeyGO Newcastle 2017
#CroakeyGO Sydney 2017
Elections and Budgets 2013 – 2021
Budget2020Health
Federal Budget 2020-21
Federal Budget 2019-20
#AusVotesHealth Twitter Festival 2019
#Health4NSW
Federal Election 2019
NSW Election 2019
Federal Budget 2018-19
Federal Budget 2017/18
NZ Election 2017
Federal Budget 2016-17
Federal Election 2016
#HealthElection16
NT Election 2016
Federal Budget 2015-16
Qld Election 2015
NSW Election 2015
Federal Budget 2014-15
Victorian Election 2014
Federal Budget 2013-14
Federal Election 2013
Federal Budget 2012-2013
Federal Budget 2011
Federal Budget 2010
Federal Election 2010
Federal Budget 2009-2010
Support non-profit public interest journalism
Filter by Categories
Aged care
Budgets
Federal Budget 2024-25
Federal Budget 2023-2024
Federal Budget October 2022
Federal Budget 2022-23
Federal Budget 2021-22
Climate and health
Climate emergency
Healthcare sustainability
Heatwaves
National Health and Climate Strategy
#HealthyCOP28
#HealthyCOP27
#HealthyCOP26
#CoveringClimateNow
COVID collection
COVID-19
Long COVID
COVIDwrap
COVID SNAPS
#JusticeCOVID
Caring for the Frontline
COVIDglobalMHseries
Croakey Conference News Service
Croakey Professional Services
NHLF series
#KidneyCareTogether
ACSQHC series
ACSQHC series 2022
ACSQHC series 2021
ACSQHC series 2020
ACSQHC series 2019
CATSINaM 25 Years
Croakey projects
@WePublicHealth 2024
Summer reading 2023-2024
The Zap
#CroakeyLIVE #DigitalNationBuilding
#CroakeyLIVE #VoiceForHealth
#PHAAThinkTank2023
The Health Wrap
ICYMI
@WePublicHealth
@WePublicHealth2023
#CroakeyVOICES
#SpeakingOurMinds
Croakey longreads
#CroakeyREAD
CroakeyEXPLORE
CroakeyGO
#CroakeyGO #NavigatingHealth
#GamblingHarms
#HeatwaveHealth
Mapping CroakeyGo
Determinants of health
Environmental determinants of health
Social determinants of health
Education
Discrimination
Housing
Internet access
Justice and policing
Justice Reinvestment
Newstart/JobSeeker
Poverty
Racism
Social policy
Commercial determinants of health
Alcohol
Arms industry
Digital platforms
Food and beverages
Fossil fuels
Gambling
Pharmaceutical industry
Plain packaging
Sugar tax
Tobacco
Vaping
Disasters and extreme weather events
Disasters
Extreme weather events
Bushfires
Bushfire-emergency 2019-2020
Floods 2023
Floods 2022
Floods 2021
Floods 2011
Donor-funded journalism
Donor-funded journalism – 2024
Donor-funded journalism – 2023
Donor-funded journalism – 2022
Donor-funded journalism – 2021
Donor-funded journalism – 2020
Elections
lutruwita/Tasmania 2024 election
#NSWvotesHealth2023
Victorian election 2022
Federal Election 2022
The Election Wrap 2022
#QldVotesHealth
SA election 2022
WA election 2021
Tasmanian election 2021
First Nations
Indigenous health
Community controlled sector
Cultural determinants of health
Cultural safety
Indigenous education
Social and emotional wellbeing
Uluru Statement
The Voice
Lowitja Institute
NT Intervention
WA community closures
Acknowledgement
#CTG10
#NTRC
#RCIADIC30Years
General health matters
Abortion
Cancer
Cardiovascular disease
Child health
Chronic conditions
Consumer health matters
Death and dying
Diabetes
Disabilities
Euthanasia
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)
Genetics
HIV/AIDS
HRT
Infectious diseases
Influenza
LGBTQIA+
Medical marijuana
Men's health
Mental health
Mpox
Non communicable diseases
Oral health
Organ transplants
Pain
Pregnancy and childbirth
Sexual health
Suicide
Swine flu
Trauma
Women's health
Youth health
Global health matters
Asylum seeker and refugee health
Conflict and war
Global health
WHO
Ebola
NHS
#WorldInTurmoil
Health policy and systems
Co-design
Health financing and costs
Health reform
Health regulation
Medicare 40 Years
MyMedicare
National Health Performance Authority
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
Private health insurance
Royal Commissions
TGA
Workforce matters
Strengthening Medicare Taskforce 2022
National Commission of Audit 2014
Healthcare
Adverse events
Allied healthcare
Australian Medical Association
Choosing Wisely
cohealth
Complementary medicines
Conflicts of interest
Co-payments
Digital technology
E-health
Emergency departments and care
Equally Well
General practice
Health Care Homes
Health ethics
Hospitals
International medical graduates
Medicare Locals
MyHospitals website
Naturopathy
NDIS
Nursing and midwifery
Out of pocket costs
Palliative care
Paramedics
Pathology
Pharmacy
Primary healthcare
Primary Health Networks
Rural and remote health
Safety and quality of healthcare and aged care
Screening
Social prescribing
Surgery
Telehealth
Tests
Media and health
Media-related issues
Health & medical marketing
Misinformation and disinformation
Public interest journalism
Social media and healthcare
The Conversation
Media Doctor Australia
News about Croakey
Public health and population health
Air pollution
Artificial intelligence
Australian Centre for Disease Control
Government 2.0
Gun control
Health communications
Health impact assessment
Health in All Policies
Health inequalities
Health literacy
Human rights
Illicit drugs
Injuries
Legal issues
Marriage equality
Nanny state
National Preventive Health Agency
Obesity
Occupational health
Physical activity
Prevention
Public health
Road safety
Sport
Transport
Vaccination
VicHealth
Violence
Web 2.0
Weight loss products
#PreventiveHealthStrategy
#UnmetNeedsinPublicHealth
Research matters
Cochrane Collaboration
Evidence-based issues
Health and medical education
Health and medical research
NHMRC
#MRFFtransparency
The Croakey Archives
#cripcroakey
#HealthEquity16
#HealthMatters
#IHMayDay (all years)
#IHMayDay 2014
#IHMayDay15
#IHMayday16
#IHMayDay17
#IHMayDay18
#LoveRural 2014
Croakey Conference News Service 2013 – 2023
2023 Conferences
#GreenHealthForum23
#hpsymposium2023
#NMS23
#HEAL2023
#ASMIRT2023
#NSPC23
Our Democracy Forum
#AskMSF
#Lowitja2023
2022 Conferences
#16nrhc
#GreenHealthForum22
#Heal2022
#ICEM22
#NAISA22
#NNF2022
#RANZCP2022
#RethinkAddiction
#RTP22
GiantSteps22
Equally Well 2022 Symposium
Choosing Wisely National Meeting 2022
2021 conferences
#21OPCC
#BackToTheFire
#FoodGovernance2021
#GiantSteps21
#GreenHealthForum21
#HealthClimateSolutions21
#HearMe21
#IndigenousClimateJustice21
#NNF2021
#RANZCP2021
#ShiftingGearsSummit
#ValueBasedCare
#WCepi2021
#YHFSummit
2020 conferences
#2020ResearchExcellence
#Govern4Health
#HealthReImagined
#SAHeapsUnfair
2019 Conferences
#ACEM19
#CPHCE19
#EquallyWellAust
#GiantSteps19
#HealthAdvocacyWIM
#KTthatWorks
#LowitjaConf2019
#MHAgeing
#NNF2019
#OKtoAsk2019
#RANZCOG19
#RANZCP2019
#ruralhealthconf
#VMIAC2019
#WHOcollabAHPRA
2018 conferences
#6rrhss
#ACEM18
#AHPA2018
#ATSISPC18
#CPHCE
#MHED18
#NDISMentalHealth
#Nurseforce
#OKToAsk2018
#RANZCOG18
#ResearchIntoPolicy
#VHAawards
#VMIACAwards18
#WISPC18
2017 conferences
#17APCC
#ACEM17
#AIDAconf2017
#BTH20
#CATSINaM17
#ClimateHealthStrategy
#IAHAConf17
#IDS17
#LBQWHC17
#LivingOurWay
#OKtoAskAu
#OTCC2017
#ResearchTranslation17
#TheMHS2017
#VMIACConf17
#WCPH2017
Australian Palliative Care Conference
2016 conferences
#AHHAsim16
#AHMRC16
#ANROWS2016
#ATSISPEP
#AusCanIndigenousWellness
#cphce2016
#CPHCEforum16
#CRANAplus2016
#IAMRA2016
#LowitjaConf2016
#PreventObesity16
#TowardsRecovery
#VMIAC16
#WearablesCEH
#WICC2016
2015 conferences
#CPHCEforum
#CRANAplus15
#HSR15
#NRHC15
#OTCC15
Population Health Congress 2015
2014 conferences
#IPCHIV14
AIDA Conference 2014
Congress Lowitja 2014
CRANAplus conference 2014
Cultural Solutions - Healing Foundation forum 2014
Lowitja Institute Continuous Quality Improvement conference 2014
National Suicide Prevention Conference 2014
Racism and children/youth health symposium 2014
Rural & Remote Health Scientific Symposium 2014
2013 conferences
Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation Forum 2013
Australian Health Promotion Association Conference 2013
Closing the Credibility Gap 2013
CRANAplus Conference 2013
FASD Conference 2013
Health Workforce Australia 2013
International Health Literacy Network Conference 2013
NACCHO Summit 2013
National Rural Health Conference 2013
Oceania EcoHealth Symposium 2013
PHAA conference 2013
Croakey Professional Services archive
#CommunityControl
#CommunityControl Twitter Festival
#COVIDthinktank21
Lowitja Indigenous knowledge translation series
Croakey projects archive
#PHAAThinkTank 2022
Summer reading 2022-2023
#CommunityMatters
#CroakeyFundingDrive 2022
#CroakeyLIVE #Budget2021Health
#CroakeyLIVE #USvotesHealth
#CroakeyLIVE Federal election 2022
#CroakeyYOUTH
#HousingJusticeAus
#IndigenousHealthSummit
#IndigenousNCDs
#JustClimate
#JustJustice
#LookingLocal
#OutOfPocket
#OutOfTheBox
#RuralHealthJustice
#TalkingTeeth
@WePublicHealth2022
@WePublicHealth2021
@WePublicHealth2020
AroundTheTraps
Croakey register of influence
Croakey Register of Influencers in Public Health
Croakey Register of Unreleased Documents
Gavin Mooney
Inside Story
Journal Watch
Naked Doctor
Poems of Public Health
Summer reading 2021-2022
Summer reading 2020-2021
Summer Reading 2019-2020
Summer Reading 2017-2018
Summer Reading 2016-2017
The Koori Woman
TOO MUCH of a Good Thing
Wonky Health
CroakeyGO archive 2017 – 2018
CroakeyGo 2018
#CroakeyGO #QuantumWords 2018
#CroakeyGO #VicVotes 2018
#CroakeyGO Albury 2018
#CroakeyGO Callan Park 2018
#CroakeyGO Carnarvon 2018
#CroakeyGO Marrickville 2018
#CroakeyGO Palm Island 2018
CroakeyGo 2017
#CroakeyGO Adelaide 2017
#CroakeyGO Melbourne 2017
#CroakeyGO Newcastle 2017
#CroakeyGO Sydney 2017
Elections and Budgets 2013 – 2021
Budget2020Health
Federal Budget 2020-21
Federal Budget 2019-20
#AusVotesHealth Twitter Festival 2019
#Health4NSW
Federal Election 2019
NSW Election 2019
Federal Budget 2018-19
Federal Budget 2017/18
NZ Election 2017
Federal Budget 2016-17
Federal Election 2016
#HealthElection16
NT Election 2016
Federal Budget 2015-16
Qld Election 2015
NSW Election 2015
Federal Budget 2014-15
Victorian Election 2014
Federal Budget 2013-14
Federal Election 2013
Federal Budget 2012-2013
Federal Budget 2011
Federal Budget 2010
Federal Election 2010
Federal Budget 2009-2010

Going private in the public hospital: patients are the losers in a riven health system

A graphic in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald last week, illustrates a growing unease about whether the increasing trend for privately insured patients to undergo treatment as private patients in public hospitals is resulting in a two-tiered public system.

Using data drawn from an AIHW report, Private health insurance use in Australian Hospitals 2006–07 to 2015–16, the figure demonstrates much longer public hospital waiting times for public than private patients for a range of surgical procedures.

This is in the context of an overall increase in private health insurance-funded hospitalisations in public hospitals, rising from 382,000 in 2006–07 (8.2% of all hospitalisations) to 872,000 in 2015–16 (13.9%), with marked state-by state variations.

These data are complex, as are the factors that see many patients “opting” to use their private health insurance for treatment in public hospitals. The report and its interpretation have proved controversial.

In the post below, veteran health reporter, health advocate, and communications director at the Consumers Health Forum of Australia, Mark Metherell, says the report shines a light on the “tangle of conflicting interests that bedevil the relationship between public hospitals and private health funds, and between the federal government and state and territory governments, over hospital funding.”

He argues that current government support for private health insurance is a threat to equity, and requires a thorough re-think.


Mark Metherell writes

The latest figures showing a dramatic increase in privately insured patients undergoing treatment in public hospitals over the past decade, has once more exposed our faltering adherence to the Medicare ideal of equity of access to universal health care.

The AIHW data reveal not only that the number of private patients receiving public hospital care has surged, but that there is also a yawning gulf in waiting times for elective surgery, favouring private over public patients.

A fractured system

The ensuing war of words between the interested parties has served to highlight the tangle of conflicting interests that bedevil the relationship between public hospitals and private health funds, and between the federal government and state and territory governments, over hospital funding.

The Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, says the differences in public hospital waiting times for public and private patients are “shocking”. The private health funds and private hospitals are calling for new curbs on the use of private insurance in public hospitals.  Meantime the public hospitals umbrella group, The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA), rejects suggestions that public hospital doctors might be favouring private patients.

Welcome to Australia’s riven health “system” where the public hospitals chase those who can afford health insurance while those who can’t afford it wait longer; where health insurance subsidies were introduced to ease pressure on the public system but have only served to contribute to more insured people seeking gap-free care at public hospitals; and where health funds (along with their members), would pay more for private hospital care, but argue that public hospital “patient harvesting” should cease.

Calling for a rebalance

The potential bright spot is that the Federal Health Minister’s expressed shock at this state of affairs is accompanied by more scrutiny of the equity issues, whereby private patients receive faster treatment than public patients.

Mr Hunt says the state and territory governments “must stop this practice at the expense of their public patients.” He has discussed it recently with other health ministers at the COAG Health Council meeting and now says the AIHW data show urgent action is needed.

The question for the states and territories is where the foregone money currently gleaned from private patients is to come from, to meet public hospital patient demand?

Vulnerabilities and loopholes

The issue exposes the awkward vulnerability of our mixed public-private health system:  private insurance is imposed on people with a mix of subsidy carrots and tax sticks, and accepted on the understanding that people who are insured will get treatment when they need it, while the uninsured have to wait.

Those waits were graphically highlighted by the AIHW figures showing that privately insured patients waited a median 20 days compared to 42 days for public patients for elective surgery (page 80). With knee replacement surgery, private patients waited 76 days and public patients 203 days (page 83).

A lack of transparency remains, around the processes by which hospital executives and medical specialists and surgeons choose between insured and uninsured patients for priority attention.

The commonly accepted understanding is that Medicare requires that every Australian should be treated in public hospitals on the basis of clinical need, however there is a little known wrinkle in that provision that was made largely unnoticed nearly 20 years ago.

A senior federal health bureaucrat, Charles Maskell-Knight, told a Senate committee hearing into health insurance recently that there was “a misconception that the Medicare principles require access to services within public hospitals to be based on clinical need.”

That was the case between 1984, when Medicare began, until 1998. But, said Mr Maskell-Knight, in 1998 the then Australian Health Care Agreements were changed and the relevant principle was that public patients “should receive care on the basis of clinical need within clinically appropriate periods.”

Asked by Greens Leader Senator Richard Di Natale what that meant for private patients, Mr Maskell-Knight replied: “That hospitals may differentiate in favour of them.”

Would such an arrangement be viewed as acceptable by the majority of Australians who pay taxes but don’t have insurance?

Subsidising inequity?

The Consumers Health Forum has long argued for a Productivity Commission inquiry into the provision of government subsidies for private health insurance.  Depending on how it is measured, the financial assistance the government provides to health insurance is in the order of between $6 billion and $11 billion.

The steady rise in health insurance premiums accompanied by often shrinking benefits, which themselves prompt more members to seek public hospital care, all raise questions about the value for money health insurance provides.

The evidence of the growing negative impact health insurance is exerting on equitable access to hospital care adds weight to the call for a thorough examination of private health insurance.

*Mark Metherell is communications director of the Consumers Health Forum.  These are his views and not necessarily the views of the Consumers Health Forum.