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Thursday, 19 June 2008
Page: 2857

Senator COLBECK (1:15 PM) —I take this opportunity of speaking on the Private Health Insurance Legislation Amendment Bill 2008 to remark on the excellent work that the Private Health Insurance Administration Council does. It has a very comprehensive website, which provides valuable statistics on the take-up of private health insurance broken down by age, state and territory, and in the current debate in particular it is a most useful resource. The Chief Executive Officer of the Private Health Insurance Administration Council, Ms Gayle Ginnane, recently retired from the position after 12 years. She was the foundation CEO. On behalf of the opposition I would like to record our appreciation for her work over the years for the Commonwealth of Australia and for improving public understanding of the private health insurance industry.

At present the Private Health Insurance Act allows a private health insurer to be registered as either a company or a registered body within the meaning of the Corporations Act. The bill before the Senate will require all private health insurers to be companies and will regularise accountability and governance standards. I am advised that there are currently 38 registered health insurers and only four are not companies. This bill gives these four until January 2010 to become companies. Finally, the bill removes doubts that the principal act allows private health insurers to operate pilot projects. This should encourage the provision of broader health cover and enhance the range of private healthcare products that are available to the Australian public. The opposition supports the bill.