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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9359

Private Health Insurance

Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (14:37): My question is to the Minister for International Development and the Pacific representing the Minister for Health. Will the minister outline to the Senate the Turnbull government's commitment to the 13.5 million Australians that have private health insurance?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:38): I thank Senator Brockman for his question. Private health insurance helps 13.5 million Australians. On 13 October this year, the Minister for Health announced the largest reforms to private health insurance to make it simpler and more affordable. The government has negotiated $1 billion worth of services with the medical devices industry, and younger Australians will benefit from discounted hospital premiums of up to 10 per cent and savings of up to $200 a year on a $2,000 policy. We will provide greater access to mental health services for people in regional and rural areas, with insurers offering travel and accommodation benefits. We are making private health insurance simpler by requiring insurers to categorise products as gold, silver, bronze and basic, with easy-to-use definitions. We will continue to support affordable health insurance via our private health insurance rebate, currently worth $6 billion a year. Our actions have helped to keep the pressure on private health insurers and help drive the lowest premium prices in 10 years—lower than any years under the Rudd and Gillard governments.

Can I just compare our record to Labor's record. The Labor Party wanted to rip out the heart of private health insurance with destructive cuts. You are ideologically driven in shutting down private health insurance. You would force millions of Australians, millions of Australian families, onto higher costs of private health insurance premiums. Before the 2007 election, we had all these promises by Nicola Roxon: 'We're not going to touch private health insurance.' As soon as you got into government, you cut, cut, cut— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brockman, a supplementary question.

Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (14:40): Can the minister update the Senate on feedback the government has received since the private health insurance reforms were announced?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:40): Thank you, Senator Brockman. Key stakeholders have supported the government's reform practice. The AMA president, Michael Gannon, has said:

… the changes will provide better coverage for mental health services and for people in rural and regional Australia.


The framework for positive reform of the private health insurance industry is now in place.

Consumer Health Forum of Australia CEO, Leanne Wells—no relation—said:

The Government's health insurance reforms appear likely to deliver not only lower premium increases in the medium term but hopefully clearer consumer-friendly policies.

I say this because, before Kristina Keneally tells us another lie about what's happening in Bennelong—and the reason I'm stressing Bennelong is that some of Australia's major pharmaceutical and health companies have their base in Bennelong, so I want to make sure that the people of Bennelong have the truth, not the lies that are being peddled by Kristina Keneally. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brockman, a final supplementary question.

Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (14:41): Thank you, Minister, for that answer. Is the minister aware of any risks that will undermine the private health insurance industry and raise premiums for hardworking Australians?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:41): As with Medicare, it's those opposite—

An opposition senator interjecting

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Absolutely—your ill-informed policies on private health insurance will ensure that Australian families, especially including those in Bennelong, will have to pay higher cost for their premiums, with potential increases of 16 per cent. This is on top of the premium increases that they suffered—a rise of over 28 per cent—during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years. Just as you've flip-flopped and done all sorts of things in relation to the Medicare offices, you have flip-flopped on private health insurance as well. When you were in power, you cut $4 billion from private health insurance when you introduced means testing, and you were even proud of it, because— (Time expired)