Doctors’ Health Fund, the health insurer created exclusively for the medical community, is celebrating its 40th birthday in 2017. Some highlights from our proud history demonstrate the central role our unique membership has played in making the fund what it is today.
In the beginning
The Fund’s beginning was an innovative response by AMA members to significant changes in the Australian healthcare landscape in the mid-1970s. Until then, “when doctors treated other doctors or their families, it was unthinkable for them to charge anything for a medical service,” explains the Fund’s former Chairman, Dr Paul Nisselle.
The introduction of the taxpayer-funded Medibank (later renamed Medicare) triggered the practice of doctors beginning to charge colleagues the Medibank rebate for in-hospital treatment. In late 1976 the NSW Branch of the AMA incorporated its own AMA NSW Health Fund as one way of resolving embarrassment among doctors in the cases where the treating doctor’s bill exceeded the Medibank rebate. “By then, doctors providing gifts as a way of saying ‘thank you’ to their treating doctor was no longer practical,” says Dr Nisselle.
Dr Phillip Cocks, who is credited with the initial concept for the Fund, says “it developed its own impetus”, once it was on the AMA NSW Branch’s agenda. "The support from my colleagues on Council ensured that the suggestion became a reality," explains Dr Cocks. The group played a key role in designing the Fund’s products at the time to meet the particular requirements of medical practitioners and providing the high quality cover the profession would expect. Dr Cocks notes a defining feature from the Fund’s early days was the payment of benefits up to the AMA’s list of services and fees for in-hospital treatments. This remains in place today with our flagship hospital Top Cover which is still an offering unmatched by any other health insurer.
Between the mid-1980s when the Fund was opened to AMA members nationally and in 2005, when it was renamed The Doctors’ Health Fund, coverage remained under 5,000 people. To broaden membership, eligibility to join was expanded to family and staff of doctors and a new period of growth ensued.
The Avant advantage
Fast forward to 2011 when Avant Mutual, recognising the synergy between its support of the medical profession as a mutual and Doctors’ Health Fund as a health insurer for doctors, proposed a union. Following a resounding favourable vote by Fund members, Doctors’ Health Fund became part of Avant Mutual in May 2012. By the end of June that year, membership jumped by 20% and the Fund now insures over 33,000 people.
Commenting on the 40th birthday, Doctors’ Health Fund CEO, Peter Aroney, says “the healthcare landscape is changing quickly today, as it was in the 1970s when the Fund began. It makes supporting our members as both patients and providers as important now as it has ever been. Our performance is an indication of how much this support is valued by the medical community.”
As the history demonstrates, it is our members who have made the Fund what it is today with a strong “by doctors for doctors” ethos, complete with:
high quality benefits supporting freedom of choice, clinical independence and fair payment for medical professionals’ expertise
personalised, quality customer service with satisfaction rated in the 2016 member survey at 95%
benefits only for clinically evidenced treatments
advocacy of the medical profession in proposed reforms, collaboration with professional bodies and government consultations.
Thank you to all Doctors’ Health Fund members for helping us to continue to serve the medical community – dedicated to you, dedicated to the profession.