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Legislation introduced to reform private health insurance

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Australia's Commonwealth Media Release - Dr Wooldridg(wysiwyg://242/

Media Release 7 i f

Dr Michael Wooldridge

MW 140/97 27 November, 1997


The Federal Minister for Health and Family Services, Dr Michael Wooldridge, this morning introduced legislation which will foster competition in private health insurance; reduce cost pressures on premiums; encourage better co-operation between funds, doctors and hospitals; and help

consumers by reducing the problem o f large out-of-pocket costs.

Introducing the Health Insurance Amendment Bill (No 2) 1997 Dr Wooldridge told the House o f Representatives that the package represented part o f the Government's response to reports from the Industry Commission and the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee.

Other reforms requiring further analysis and development, such as lifetime community rating which would help balance the age distribution of fund membership, will be addressed in separate legislation next year depending on the final outcome o f modelling and other studies.

Dr Wooldridge told Parliament that while Australians overwhelmingly support Medicare and the universal access to free public health services that this guarantees, this is complemented by almost one third o f the population who has private health insurance.

"We have a universal public health system which is highly valued by most Australians, but many see value in having access to the private health sector", Dr Wooldridge said.

"The Government supports this choice. The key for most Australians to this access is private health insurance. Approximately 80% o f private hospital episodes are funded through private health insurance.

"The Government's message is loud and clear: the private sector is a vital complement to the long term viability o f Medicare and the public hospital system.

"This is much more than idle rhetoric. Positive action is being taken to ensure that private health insurance is a realistic choice for those Australians who wish to maintain it", he said.

Dr Wooldridge said that the legislation would improve the health insurance product and allow funds to work with providers to address the major reasons for consumer dissatisfaction.

"It is vital that we achieve greater certainty for consumers, either through informed financial consent so that they know in advance the out-of-pocket costs or, even better, by securing agreements for 100 percent cover for their medical bill", Dr Wooldridge said.

Media Contact: Bill Royce, Dr Wooldridge's office (06) 277 7220

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