Sunday, May 17, 2009


Red News Readers,

No wonder politicans don't believe lobby groups when they predict disasters from government changes! No doubt people are taking out private insurance as insurance against having to go to the now disgraced public system. But what citizens have to understand that if they are injured in a trauma, say a motor vehicle accident, they will go to a public hospital ED and be treated by the doctors on duty. There is no choice of doctor in this situation. They then will go to a public hospital bed in a ward. Single rooms in public hospitals are not for private patients. They are for the very sick, the dying and the infectious. If someone with private insurance wants one of these rooms, they're welcome to it, so long as it is not needed for one of these patients, and that would be rare in a public system pressed for beds. If you have private cover you can be sure that you will get the full attention and the bills of your chosen doctor in a public hospital. Private insurance only covers the cost of elective treament in a private hospital. That is the circumstance where you get your choice of doctor.

In a public hospital a clerk will come around as ask if you wish to pay by private insurance or Medicare, and patients have that choice, but there is very little difference in the care given by the health system staff, doctors, nurses etc to a public patient or a private patient. In my 30 year nursing career I never looked at the patient's health insurance status, as I gave the same care to all, rich or poor. Long may it stay that way!! Although I hear now that hospitals are returning to the 30s , 40s ,50s and 60s and setting up private wards in public hospitals where there will be single rooms and private level care, with choice of doctor. Medicare swept all this away. How sad and stupid we are going back to it!!

Jenny Haines

Thousands flock to health funds

Josh Gordon, smh

May 17, 2009

AUSTRALIANS have been pouring into private health cover at a rate of more than 4000 a week, with new figures set to undermine claims that the private health system is about to be king-hit by changes announced in last week's budget.

A leaked report reveals an extra 225,000 people took up private cover during the 12 months to March this year.

The surge came despite warnings from insurers and the Opposition that changes announced in the 2008 budget would pressure the public system by forcing people to abandon private cover.

Some private health funds last year claimed they were heading for a "shock loss" of 6 to 8 per cent of their policy holders, following changes in the 2008 budget that increased the income threshold for the Medicare levy surcharge, applied to people with no private cover, from $50,000 to $70,000 for singles and from $100,000 to $140,000 for families. But the figures suggest the feared exodus did not occur.

Last week's federal budget confirmed plans to means test the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate for singles earning more than $75,000 and for families earning above $150,000. The rebate will cease for couples earning more than $240,000.

The Medicare levy surcharge rate will also be lifted for singles earning more than $90,000 and families above $180,000.

The figures, from the independent but publicly funded Private Health Insurance Administration Council, show more than 9.7 million Australians are now covered for private hospital insurance, equivalent to 44.6 per cent of the population.

In the first three months of 2009, an extra 45,000 people took up private cover, after an increase of 55,000 during the final three months of 2008. Since March 2007 the number of people with private cover has swelled by 634,000.

Treasury estimated the changes will have a minuscule impact on private cover, with modelling suggesting 99.7 per cent of people will remain in private health insurance.

But Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has pledged his party will vote against the plan to means test the 30 per cent rebate. Family First Senator Steve Fielding and Independent Nick Xenophon have also expressed concern.

The Health Insurance Association has argued that the decision to means test the rebate will place increased pressure on the public hospital system and force up premiums.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon yesterday accused Mr Turnbull of plotting to force people on low incomes to pay private health insurance.