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Transcript of doorstop: Melbourne: 6 March 2018: Turnbull's private health insurance crisis; women's health

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SUBJECT/S: Turnbull’s private health insurance crisis; women’s health

GED KEARNEY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BATMAN: Here in the lead up to International Women's Day we are highlighting the dreadful plight of women's health centres under the Turnbull Government. Never before have we seen such neglect of services like Women's Health in the North where we are today, which provide vital services to women like protecting their reproductive rights, protecting against sexual assault and ensuring their economic participation. We know that women are twice as likely to skip seeking healthcare if there are budget constraints or if access is limited. More than ever it is vital that women's health centres like this one here in Thornbury are properly funded and resourced. I'd like to hand over to Catherine King, the Shadow Minister for Health who is going to give a further explanation.

CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE: It’s terrific to be here with Ged Kearney our terrific candidate for Batman at Women's Health in the North.

I just want to make a couple of comments about the Medicare statistics that have come out today as well as comments about private health insurance. It's been pretty unedifying to see the federal Government and the Health Minister today lauding the latest Medicare statistics. And you'd have to say how out of touch are they when we know that out of pocket costs when it comes to people accessing health services are going through the roof under the Turnbull Government.

We know on average for people seeking to access a general practitioner they are now paying $35 and for people accessing specialist care it is $72. Of course that is the average cost, many people are paying much, much more to access their basic care. We know that 1 million Australians are, due to cost, avoiding going to see a GP and 1.7 million don't go to see a specialist because they can't afford the cost. We know for women in particular they have higher rates of not accessing services, not being able to go see a GP, not accessing specialists and certainly not filling prescriptions, and cost is a major factor in that. Under the Turnbull Government Medicare continues to be under pressure, people's out of pocket costs continue to be pressured, and only Labor and Ged Kearney here in Batman can make sure that we can support Medicare.

QUESTION: How do you respond to today's report on a significant increase in complaints about private health insurance?

KING: Well the report that's come out today that there’s been an increase of 30% to private health insurance complaints is not surprising at all. Our private health insurance system under Malcolm Turnbull is broken. People are saying over and over again they cannot afford the increases in their private health insurance premiums, they are getting less value for money for the private health insurance products they’re purchasing, they’re seeing more and more that there are exclusions and they are also seeing less value for the product. They're going to use their private health insurance and finding they're not covered for the important medical treatment they thought they were covered for and having to pay large gap payments in private hospital day procedure theatres as well. People also have to pay for specialist care, have to pay for anaesthetists, have to pay extra for medical devices. All of those things are seeing people vote with their feet and also increasing the level of complaints for private health insurance.

QUESTION: Having said all that, should the Government be doing more to ensure value for money?

KING: Absolutely the Government needs to do more when it comes to private health insurance. We're about to see on the 1st of April a 3.9%, almost 4%, increase in private health insurance premiums and the Government celebrated that. They think that is good enough. Well it’s not good enough. The reason we're seeing complaints go through the roof, the reason we're seeing people dropping their private health insurance - 12,000 just in the last quarter alone - is because this system is broken.

Labor has announced that we will cap at 2% private health insurance premium increases for our first two years in office and have the first root and branch look at private health insurance there has been for 20 years. This is something that is absolutely needed to ensure we get more affordability into private health but we also get value for money. Private health insurers are making record profits, continue to make huge amounts of money off the back of a very heavily subsidised tax incentive and this Government has done very, very little to make private health insurance affordable for all Australians.