The Australian private health insurance industry is seeing some hard times, as, after the much debated introduction of means testing the rebate, the federal government recently announced budget cuts for the funding of the rebate. In a move that aims to save $700 million to the state budget over the coming four years, the government will reduce its funds for the rebate by indexing it with either the consumer price index or increases in the premium for the policy. The basis for indexation, will, of course, be the lower of the two increases. This being the case, industry representatives, including the government’s own private insurer, have once more decried the effects of such a measure on the total number of insured Australians. What’s more, they’re also forecasting an erosion of the public health care system, which is under-funded and under-staffed as it is. A spokesman from Help Me Choose reports that private insurers are saying that the public system is thoroughly unprepared to take on an increased load of patients switching over from the private system – and they might just be right.
The issue of underfunded public hospitals has once more come into focus with the emergence of a new marketing trend. Nowadays, public hospitals in Australia are targeting medical patients with private insurance, in an attempt to lure them into checking into public hospitals. Public health care facilities are now offering a wide range of perks to such patients, from private treatment rooms, to free entertainment, in order to benefit from the money that comes along with their private coverage. The Royal Children’s Hospital and Frankston Hospital are even offering to cover gap costs that privately covered patients might face, as they stand to receive extra money for every patient that uses their private coverage at their facilities. At Frankston and Rosebud, patients get the daily newspapers for free, as well as TV and phone access, provided they use their private insurance.
If you’re looking to benefit from these incentives yourself, it might be useful to compare private health insurance online and carefully look into your provider’s provisions for gap payments. Aside from added bonuses, such as free entertainment, public hospitals have been known to up the out-of-pocket cost bill and, in spite of what official data says, it seems that some 25 per cent of privately insured patients face the risk of running gap costs. Simply put, when you check into a public hospital, as a private patient, your public coverage will take care of 75 per cent of your scheduling costs, while the remaining 25 per cent should be covered by your health fund. However, from that point onward, your doctor may choose to charge for any medical or paramedical procedures, from surgery to anesthetics, to speech therapy or psychological therapy. Further complicating matters is the issue of inter-hospital infections: choose your facility wisely, as, according to a recent study, over 1.700 patients admitted into public hospitals in Australia in 2012 caught the Golden Staph superbug, which can be fatal.
In theory, irrespective of whether or not you are privately insured, you should be getting the same treatment in public hospitals, according to the National Healthcare Agreement. However, the current situation, in which there are waiting lists for private patients to be admitted into public hospitals, has brought a surplus of $13.5 million to the budget of one hospital alone (the Royal Children’s Hospital). In total, private insurers have awarded over $222 million over the twelve months leading up to March 2013, to cover for the costs incurred by private patients. This is a sizeable increase from the $134 million paid out for the same reasons in the year to March 2009. In other words, the status quo might be inequitable for the patients, but it certainly helps public hospitals improve their standards.
Anna Mathews writes about news of various fields for a number of websites and blogs. An enthusiastic supporter of lifetime learning opportunities for everyone.