The country’s largest union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) is welcoming a pledge by the Opposition to cap the soaring costs of private health insurance fees.
Under the plan announced today by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, price increases set by big private health insurers will be limited to 2 per cent for two years, with the Productivity Commission to be tasked with carrying out a review of the private health system.
Acting Federal Secretary Annie Butler, says the ANMF is supporting practical policy reforms which enhance the affordability and value of private health insurance, whilst strengthening Australia’s successful system of universal healthcare.
“We acknowledge the need for an effective private health system. But the fact is, fees for private health insurance cover are out of control and now becoming unaffordable for most families,” Ms Butler said today.
“We find it grossly unfair that the big private health insurers are reaping in billions of dollars through Government subsidies, yet continuing to hurt Australian taxpayers with their spiralling fees and out of pocket costs. There’s a lack of transparency and too much confusion for consumers who are getting trapped in their policies’ fine print with multiple exclusions. Too many legitimate services are not covered by a number of policies while others, with no clear evidence base, are.
“The public contribution to private health insurance is far too great and isn’t providing a fair return for taxpayers and the wider community, in either health or economic terms.
“The private health system has a legitimate and important role as an alternate choice for the provision of health care but its operation must not be at the expense of publicly provided services available to all. We must ensure that the private health system continues to provide best practice and evidenced based care, for those who choose to access the system, in a complementary role to a high quality, viable and effective public health system.
“It’s clear that the private health system needs a total overhaul to ensure that it is practical and affordable for those people who need it and it’s also imperative that Government subsidies for private health insurance firms are reduced and gradually removed, with that money put back into the public system. As frontline nurses and midwives, we understand how important health care is and how there’s an urgent need to protect Australia’s world-class universal healthcare system.”
Ms Butler said the ANMF and its members looked forward to participating in any stakeholder consultation regarding reforms to private health insurance, including the need for greater regulation and reporting requirements to ensure transparency and systems performance.