In late May, the federal government announced their new 2020-2025 National Health Reform Agreement, where they have dedicated record funding to promote effective and equitable healthcare to all Australians during and in the years following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Included in this agreement is a commitment by all states and territories to remove any financial benefit directed to public hospitals for treating privately insured patients.

Concern has been raised of public hospitals using certain tactics to encourage patients, including when admitted through emergency departments, to sign over their private health insurance details to cover their admission. While there are genuine and appropriate reasons to receive treatment as a private patient in a public hospital, it is vital that patients make this decision in a free and informed manner. This includes full disclosure of what the patient is receiving should they elect to be privately funded, above their rights under Medicare as an Australian taxpayer.

While the details of this new agreement are still to be made clear, industry bodies believe this commitment will remove the incentives that currently exist for public hospitals, which ultimately drive this behaviour1. Importantly, they envisage it will make the public system more accessible for those Australians that rely on it, especially by reducing waiting lists. It should also have a positive impact on private health insurance premiums, which until now have seen increases in some part due to the growth in private patient admissions in public hospitals2.

More to come...

1Health Dispatch. ‘APHA: New agreement could mean end of ‘harvesting’’.
2 The Department of Health. ‘Private health insurance reforms: Private patients in public hospitals.’