Ian McAuley, a Centre for Policy Development Fellow and lecturer in Public Sector Finance at the University of Canberra, wrote this piece in Crikey yesterday, examining why the private health insurance industry is campaigning against changes that are actually going to increase incentives for high income earners to hold private health insurance.
He concluded that the industry might be flexing its might – warning the Government off making any real changes to current arrangements – as well as trying to attract customers through the time-honoured technique of a fear campaign.
In interesting timing, the SMH reported recently that the Rudd Government may be preparing for the sale of Medibank Private, with a draft platform to be put to Labor’s national conference next month calling on governments to “support and strengthen private health care”.
In NSW, the acting general secretary of the NSW Nurses’ Association, Judith Kiejda, is not impressed. She has written the following article for Croakey:
“This comes as no surprise given the prominence of private health insurance interests in the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission and the failure thus far of that process to confront the truth about the impacts of the massive public subsidies currently enjoyed by the private health insurance industry.
Let’s be clear about the effects of privatising health care. Essentially this is about increasing the burden of costs onto individuals and lessening the extent to which society takes collective responsibility for providing health care. This cannot be the solution if our goal is to avoid the spiralling cost of care and lack of equity and access we see in the United States.
Australia’s expenditure on health as a proportion of GDP will not lessen because more of the burden is shifted to private interests. More likely it will inflate costs because private sector providers and insurers demand profits.
Or, worse, it will lead to declining standards of care and we need look no further than the litany of issues emerging in the aged care sector to see what the profit imperative does to staffing levels and quality care.
If the private health insurance industry is so inefficient that it cannot survive without billions in public subsidies then surely good sense would demand that we direct our attention to how those billions could be invested in ways that ensure that every Australian has access to excellent care in the public system.
Universal insurance in this country has delivered very high standards of care at low costs compared to other systems. Clearly there are a range of reforms necessary to ensure that this level of performance keeps pace with changing demographics and patterns of demand.
But to attempt to resolve the problems in the system with greater privatisation of the health care market is resigning ourselves to a system with higher overall costs and where there will necessarily be winners and losers.”