Now another Croakey contributor, public finance academic Ian McAuley has been in touch about his recent experience with Informa Australia. His article below provides a timely reminder that the health conference business is more about private than public interests.
“Your views on private health insurance don’t fit the bill”
Ian McAuley writes:
Informa Australia recently approached me to speak at their conference on health insurance, scheduled for July.
They had already arranged some sessions. The keynote session, to be addressed by a CEO of a large health insurer, is “Government cutbacks – a sea of opportunity”. The second session is titled “Private health insurance and tax reforms in the first term of a Coalition Government: A shortlist.”
After examining the session outlines, I replied that would be happy to participate, responding with a suggestion for rounding out the discussion somewhat:
“There are assumptions [in the notes of the already arranged sessions] such as “government spending on healthcare is unsustainable” and that there are “unaffordable proposals for new dental, disability and aged care funding”. The implicit conclusion is that there is an indisputable case for private health insurance to fill these supposed gaps.
These are strong assumptions, and there are many unstated assumptions in the steps leading to conclusion that private insurance therefore has a greater role in health funding. I would expect a conference concerned with health policy to provide substantial space for a questioning or rebuttal of such assumptions.
There is, indeed, a worldwide trend of expanding government expenditure on health care, but this does not mean it is unsustainable. It is possible – highly likely in fact — that people are quite happy to see that their expanding health care needs are served through taxation rather than the more expensive and more inequitable mechanism of private insurance.
And it is also possible that people may opt for more self-reliance – that is to pay for more of their health care needs from their own pockets, without the paternalistic intervention and moral hazard of governments and health care funds. Our society is much more prosperous than it was in the days when countries chose, through government or Bismarkian arrangements, comprehensive health coverage with free services at the point of delivery.
In particular, many older Australians now have very substantial private means and could afford to make substantial contributions to their needs without churning their funds through the taxation system or private insurance (or, in the case of “Medicare Select”, churning their contributions through both taxation and private insurance).”
The response from the organizers was enthusiastic. I then responded with a title “Long-term funding of health care” and a cryptic outline, summarising the above, for inclusion in the conference brochure.
The following day, however, I received an E-mail:
“Having a closer look at the agenda I believe that perhaps this session wouldn’t have the perfect fit in the program.”