Health policies signal different priorities

Both side of politics have at the weekend issued policies promising a better health deal, underlining the need for improvements in public hospital financing and private health insurance, the Consumers Health Forum says.

“We welcome the commitments by the Coalition and Labor. While they reflect significantly different priorities, the policies each deal with issues of central importance to the future of the Australian health system,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells said.

“Labor’s promise to increase public hospital funding and reduce surgery waiting times is backed by a recommitment to a funding formula which has shown that it can generate more efficient, cost-effective patient care.

“We also welcome Labor’s commitment to implementing patient centred health care home models of care in Australia, matching the Government’s commitment to Health Care Homes. This is the way of the future for funding and delivering care for people with chronic and complex conditions, including those with mental illness. It is pleasing to see all parties commit to this.

“The Coalition’s promise to revamp health insurance to give people more certainty about the cover they have paid for represents a significant step forward for consumers.

“The plans to make insurance cover and medical billing simpler and introduce tiers or levels of insurance to link premiums more clearly to choice of cover are developments that are reflected in the MyCover plan for reform which the Consumer Health Forum proposed to the Government last year.

“CHF has long argued for consumer-friendly reforms in health insurance to reduce the frustration and uncertainty so many people experience.

“CHF has also advocated that only those policies which meet standards of comprehensiveness, simplicity and clarity should qualify for the health insurance rebate.

“We would hope the Government will consider using the rebate to stimulate a better deal for consumers. The rebate costs taxpayers $6 billion a year when there remains widespread dissatisfaction with health insurance as surveys by both CHF and the Government have shown.

“We would also urge the Government to consider matching Labor’s commitment to disqualify alternative therapies which lack evidence from eligibility for the rebate."

“The development of gold, silver and bronze levels of cover and the mandating of minimum levels of cover, we think offer a path to more certain and more transparent arrangements. The standardisation of policies and simplified billing to reduce the current “bill shock” patients can experience are also welcome steps.

“The fundamental issue that lies behind the policies of both Government and the Opposition is the need for consumers to have access to quality services. While it is vital that privatelyinsured patients get the care they reasonably believe they are insured for, an effective public hospital system fundamental to Australia’s health system,” Ms Wells said.

CHF will publish its Federal Election Report card appraising the health policies of all parties in late June.


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