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Community Affairs Legislation Committee
07/08/2018

AZMI, Ms Susan, Acting Assistant Secretary, Private Health Insurance Branch, Department of Health

McGREGOR, Mr David, Director, Private Health Insurance Ombudsman, Commonwealth Ombudsman

MANTHORPE, Mr Michael, Commonwealth Ombudsman and Private Health Insurance Ombudsman

SHAKESPEARE, Ms Penny, Acting Deputy Secretary, Department of Health

WALSH, Dermot, Senior Assistant Ombudsman, Industry Branch, Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman

WEISS, Mr David, First Assistant Secretary, Medical Benefits Division, Department of Health

[13:41]

CHAIR: I welcome officers from the Department of Health and the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Could you all please confirm that information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses and evidence has been provided to you? Thank you. I remind witnesses that the Senate has resolved that an officer of a department of the Commonwealth or a state shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to superior officers or to a minister. This resolution prohibits only questions asking for opinions on matters of policy, and does not preclude questions asking for explanations of policies or factual questions about when and how policies were adopted.

The committee has your submissions. I invite any of you to make a short opening statement should you wish to do so, and then we will ask you some questions. As no-one wishes to make an opening statement, we will get straight into it.

Senator PRATT: In relation to savings that the department expects to realise through the excess changes, your submission contains estimates of how much the higher maximum excesses will take off the price of premiums. Can I ask how you arrived at those conclusions?

Ms Azmi : That was based on a scan of existing products and the excesses that currently apply and the differences between what appeared to be otherwise equivalent products, and looking at the differentials between premiums with different excesses, based on the current market.

Senator PRATT: What do you mean by 'scan' in that context? Did you say, 'If your policy costs you this much per month, the majority of those policies have high excesses and the policies that cost much more per month have lower excesses—' did you comprehensively model that in terms of all the products in the market?

Ms Azmi : No, we did not look at all the products on the market. As you've heard today, there are a large number of products on the market. We took a sample of products in one jurisdiction. I believe that was in New South Wales. We did a general comparison of products with different excess levels and the general premiums that applied across similar products at those excess levels.

Senator PRATT: What evidence do you have to show that that estimation is statistically valid?

Ms Azmi : As we've presented, it's only a scan of that. We haven't presented that as a statistically valid or actuarially modelled estimate in any way. The insurers would be in a better position to provide that information to you.

Senator PRATT: We asked them about it and they simply said that it is logical for that to be the case. They couldn't point us to any actuarial evidence either. What guarantees does the government have that these savings will actually materialise and be passed on to consumers, rather than going to an insurer's bottom line?

Ms Shakespeare : The department doesn't offer guarantees here. What we've done is looked at the impact on things like government spending and the rebate, which is under a special appropriation. We have information about excess levels under existing policies, from which we can make sensible, informed estimates of what will happen in future. That's what we've done.

Senator PRATT: So there is no guarantee that an insurance provider, in offering a product that has a differential excess inside it, isn't going to tweak that in some way to benefit themselves rather than the consumer?

Ms Shakespeare : They will need to make information about excesses under a policy clear to the people who are considering purchasing that policy.

Senator PRATT: Of course. But in terms of the differential between one product and another, how do we know that the saving in the premium is passed on and is not resulting in a higher excess than necessary?

Ms Shakespeare : The excess will need to be something that's selected by the consumer comparing policies with different excess arrangements setting their own personal needs. The department has a process by which we assess and provide advice to the minister, who approves premium increases each year. That's assisted by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, who provides advice on the projections from insurers about what each of their policies will cost, based on the benefits offered and other conditions of the policy including excesses. So there is a rigorous premium assessment process each year.

Senator PRATT: How does this translate to a guarantee that this will actually benefit consumers?

Ms Shakespeare : I think we can say that consumers will have choice about whether they select a premium at the new levels allowed under the legislative changes, if they're passed by the parliament, or they can select a different excess if that's what suits their particular circumstances.

Senator PRATT: So it's up to the individual consumer to assess that differential? There is no-one else properly assessing whether that represents value for money in terms of their policy?

Ms Shakespeare : The government assesses, in the premium approval round each year, to make sure that any premium increase that's been sought by an insurer is the minimum necessary and that the premiums reflect the costs of covering benefits under the policy. If there is a change to an individual consumer's excess arrangements proposed as a result of changes to the legislation, where an insurer then decides to change an excess, we will ensure that consumers are given adequate notice of those changes and are able to make a choice about whether or not they want to stay with that product with a different excess or look for a different product with an excess that suits their personal circumstances.

Senator PRATT: Thank you. Does the department have any sense of how many consumers will opt for the higher excesses in exchange for lower premiums?

Ms Shakespeare : We have information about the proportion of consumers who opt for different excess levels under the current arrangements, and Ms Azmi can run you through those.

Ms Azmi : At the moment, about 20 per cent of consumers choose a product with a zero excess, about 40 per cent of consumers choose a product with the maximum excess of $500 or $1,000, and the remaining 40 per cent are spread across the range. We don't know how many will choose to go to higher excesses should they be introduced, but we do know that, even under the current arrangements, most consumers choose either no excess or an excess that's lower than the current maximum allowed.

Senator PRATT: Does the government foresee that this change will result in fewer exclusions?

Ms Shakespeare : I think that's really a question for the insurers about how this affects their policy design. It will provide additional options in the design of policies that are offered to the community.

Senator PRATT: Thank you. The primary purpose of private health insurance is to take pressure off the public system so that all Australians can access quality health services. Has the government looked at whether higher excesses push people towards the public system when it comes to making a choice about whether they're going to go into public or the private system, where they're faced with that one big out-of-pocket bill, particularly when it's combined with other gap fees that they might confront for any particular condition?

Ms Shakespeare : As Ms Azmi has explained, not all consumers go to the highest excess in the type of insurance cover that they wish to purchase. In fact, the majority select policies that have no or lower excesses. This is really a matter for individual consumers to consider on whether or not they would prefer a lower premium cost in exchange for a higher excess one-off payment if they need to use their policy. This is very similar to other insurance arrangements, and we believe consumers understand these arrangements because they are used to dealing with them across a range of different types of insurance. Really it comes down to providing choices for consumers as to whether or not they want to accept an excess or increase their excess with the premium reduction that might entail.

Senator PRATT: In terms of costs to government and where governments subsidise someone's private health insurance versus paying for someone in the public hospital system, have you modelled how consumers behave as to whether they opt into the public or the private system based on the rate of excess in their policy or other out-of-pocket costs?

Ms Shakespeare : The factors that may influence whether somebody is treated in a public hospital as a public patient or a private patient are a matter of ongoing discussion with the states and territories. In fact, there has recently been agreement to have a closer examination of those factors. That might be one of the issues that could be examined there.

CHAIR: I have an excess question; I'll jump in here. Has the figure of 20 per cent choosing no excess been stable for a long period of time, or has it changed markedly over time?

Ms Azmi : I'm sorry, Senator. I don't have that information available. I could take it on notice if you'd like me to.

CHAIR: Only if it's relatively easy to get back. We will need questions on notice back by Thursday the ninth, so only if it's a relatively easy question to answer. Thank you.

Senator PRATT: Further to my last question in relation to the issues that are currently being discussed between the Commonwealth and the states, how can we push ahead with changes that presume consumer behaviour without really dealing with those issues that are currently being discussed by the states and the Commonwealth in terms of the pressures that are pushing people who hold private health insurance but are nevertheless choosing to use the public hospital system instead? For example, we heard evidence earlier today that there are a growing number of people that wait to decide whether they'll use their private health insurance or not. They are just waiting for a little while to see how long the waiting lists will be for the public hospital system.

Ms Shakespeare : There are a few issues you've raised there. The government has announced reforms to private health insurance because there needs to be some change. We are seeing reductions in the overall number of privately insured Australians, and we think it's important to maintain our mixed model of public and private health care. So we do need to address consumer concerns around private health insurance, and we have a package of reforms, many of which are reflected in the legislation before you, to try to achieve those objectives. I don't think that it's the government's view that this should wait until we've had further discussions with the states and territories about how people may or may not opt to use their private health insurance in public hospitals, although that is an ongoing discussion and part of the package of reforms that's been announced by the government. On the excess question, I think you are making a lot of assumptions about what is driving the increased use of private health insurance in public hospitals. I'm not sure that there is evidence that excesses—

Senator PRATT: No, it wasn't the use of private health insurance in public hospitals. It's people being admitted as public patients despite the fact that they hold private health insurance. That is my question.

Ms Shakespeare : That is a choice that any Australian, privately insured or not, is entitled to make. All Australians are entitled to public health care under Medicare. That's part of our universal access system.

Senator PRATT: Yes, and it's one I wholeheartedly support, but how do we ensure that the government modelling of this is done properly in the absence of considering and understanding those drivers for people who hold private health insurance but choose to use the public system? For example, is there a relationship between the use of a policy that has a high excess and a higher likelihood that someone who holds private health insurance will end up in the public hospital system as a public patient? Have you done any modelling that looks at that likelihood?

Ms Azmi : We haven't, and I don't believe that the data would be available to allow that to be modelled.

Senator PRATT: So how can we make decisions about private health insurance, which clearly both the government and the taxpayer have paid for if they hold that policy, if ultimately their health care is effectively being paid for twice, because they have paid for it in the private system but not used it for various reasons, and it is also being paid for in the public system, which clearly ultimately needs to be paid for by the taxpayer? How are we accounting for the possibility and the frequency with which people's healthcare costs are, in effect, being paid twice?

Ms Shakespeare : I don't think that we'd accept that there are circumstances where people's health care is being paid for twice, both as a private procedure and as a public procedure. There is an election process—

Senator PRATT: But if someone pays their private health insurance but doesn't—

Ms Shakespeare : So a premium for an insurance product?

Senator PRATT: Yes. If they then don't use it, surely that's paying for that service twice.

Ms Shakespeare : We're happy to look to see if we can get you any information about products that people are purchasing and never using. I'm not sure—

Senator SIEWERT: This is not a new issue.

Senator PRATT: Exactly.

Senator SIEWERT: It's come up numerous times. So it's not as if this is a new issue. Surely you've got information on this issue.

Ms Shakespeare : Private health insurance is an insurance product that the government supports through the private health insurance rebate. There is no obligation for people to use their private health insurance. They may choose to use it, if they need health care. They may not need health care in the period that they have purchased the policy cover for. It's an insurance product.

Senator SIEWERT: Let's look at this another way. The government's paying a rebate to encourage private health insurance and then they're paying again when the person goes into the public hospital and doesn't use their private health insurance. So they're paying twice.

Ms Shakespeare : The government would not in any way support any requirement that people with private health insurance be obliged to use that and not be able to access public hospitals under Medicare.

Senator PRATT: That is not—

Senator SIEWERT: This is a public policy issue.

Senator PRATT: And it's not necessarily the core of the question. It's whether it's sufficiently modelled to account for the costs in the system as well that we would like to see addressed in terms of whether it's an efficient way of subsidising health expenses in the country.

Ms Shakespeare : The government's position is that the private health insurance rebate is an essential part of our system of incentives to encourage people to take up private health insurance. Although, under that system, there is no obligation on a privately insured person to use that policy for private treatment if they have a health condition because we have the entire population with access to Medicare.

Senator PRATT: We don't dispute that. Well, the Greens might—

Senator SIEWERT: We do.

Senator PRATT: but Labor support the private health insurance rebate. What we want to see is how the drivers are modelled in terms of whether people choose to use private health insurance in a private or public hospital versus whether they end up in a public hospital to see whether those relationships that channel people from one to the other are leveraged and modelled effectively. Essentially you're arguing that it is just the consumer's choice, but you haven't explained whether or not the policy is sensible in how big the rebate is and what the excess is based on the behaviour of Australians in the health system.

Ms Shakespeare : We've provided you with information about how people are currently deciding to purchase excesses, which we think is likely to carry over with changes to the maximum excess level. I'm not sure that there's any further useful modelling we can do, because the government is not going to be looking at the rebate as a direct investment in health care where privately insured people must use their policies.

Senator PRATT: No, but can you take on notice to find out what information you have about whether people with a higher excess are more likely to opt in to admission as a public patient in a public hospital. I think it was said before that there was limited information on that, but can you find us what information you do have.

Ms Shakespeare : We're happy to look for what information we can give you by Thursday on that question.

Senator PRATT: Okay.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. How are you going, Senator Pratt?

Senator PRATT: I've still got a few more questions.

CHAIR: We'll probably have time to come back to you.

Senator PRATT: Thank you.

CHAIR: I just want to clarify a few points from previous evidence we've had and then we'll go to Senator Siewert. In the AHHA evidence they were talking about profitability. I didn't have time to pursue this with them, but they mentioned some very high profitability margins. I'm not sure if they were talking about return on capital or some other measure. They were talking about high 20-something per cent returns for private health insurance. My understanding is the average in the industry is four to five per cent. I'm not sure where the 28 per cent would be coming from. Does the department have any comment on that?

Ms Shakespeare : It's not a figure I can confirm; we would probably need to go and look at the AHHA evidence. But in general, yes: the private health insurance industry operates on fairly low margins.

CHAIR: Can you take that one on notice? If you could address that point from the AHHA's evidence, that would be handy for our report. The second thing I wanted to ask was the current status of the rules. They are out for consultation, is that correct?

Ms Shakespeare : Draft rules were out for consultation which closed on Friday last week, and we're now considering submissions that we received on those drafts.

CHAIR: What's the timetable for completion of that consideration?

Ms Shakespeare : We received a very large number of submissions. We're dealing with them as quickly as we can, and we'll be calling further meetings with various stakeholders to discuss their comments on the rules to make sure that we have, as far as we can achieve, broad agreement on the rules and the clinical categories that will support gold, silver, bronze and basic, in particular.

CHAIR: What's the status of those rules in terms of parliamentary oversight? Will they be disallowable?

Ms Shakespeare : Yes.

CHAIR: I have another follow-up question from your earlier evidence today. Do we know the numbers of people on specific types of policies? We heard that a large number of policies have only one or two, or five or 10 members. Do we have a list of policies by number of members? I don't expect you to read that list out, I just wondered if you had that list. And is that publicly available information?

Ms Azmi : It's not publicly available information, Chair. It's information that's taken from the premium round applications provided to us by funds. But it's in the order of about 45 per cent of products that currently have no members on them.

CHAIR: Okay. Can we get a very high-level breakdown for the final report? Say, 45 per cent have zero, X per cent have one or two, X per cent have three to 10, and so on.

Ms Shakespeare : Yes, certainly.

Senator SIEWERT: While we're on the rules: I'm sure you heard the evidence around tier 2 for the day hospitals, where the six-hour stay has gone in with the 23-hour stay. Could you explain the background, if it's possible? Or could you take that on notice? They seem quite different.

Ms Azmi : Senator, I believe that you're referring to the proposed categorisation of hospitals under the draft second-tier categories.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes, that's it.

Ms Azmi : The categories have been provided for consultation. There has been, I guess, a longstanding issue about how 23-hour hospitals should be categorised. The department has categorised those hospitals in the draft that is currently out for consultation. The 23-hour hospitals have been included in the category for day hospitals. We have received some feedback in relation to the consultation on the exposure draft of the rules. We'll be considering all of the feedback that we have.

Senator SIEWERT: I understand that. I want to know the reasoning behind including them where you included them.

Ms Azmi : Yes, sure. The issue is around, for the purpose of second-tier benefits, grouping like hospitals. Benefits are calculated for groups of hospitals that share similar attributes. There has been an ongoing discussion across the sector about whether 23-hour hospitals are best grouped with day hospitals or with hospitals that have the same number of beds as those hospitals. The proposal that has gone out for consultation is to include those 23-hour hospitals in the day hospital category, because they are licensed only to admit patients for periods of less than 24 hours—so less than one day. It's a matter of which category best captures the like attributes of those hospitals. The submissions have only just closed on the draft rules, so we'll be looking at all the feedback we've received. The key here is that the 23-hour hospitals have never specifically been identified in the draft rules, and we're just trying to put some clarity around that so that all parties understand exactly where those hospitals would be classified.

Senator SIEWERT: Given the concern that's been expressed by hospitals about the categorisation, in the past where have those hospitals sat? They've sat with non-day hospitals.

Ms Azmi : The classification of hospitals to this point has been done by each insurer based on the claims that each hospital makes with each of those insurers. As part of bringing this second-tier process into the department, the department will be taking on that classification task. It will be the first time that there's been certainty for those hospitals about which category they will be placed in.

Senator SIEWERT: Can I go back to the issue about people holding private health insurance who are using public hospitals? Do you collect that data, or do you have access to that data?

Ms Azmi : Do you mean privately insured patients who are electing to be public?

Senator SIEWERT: Yes. Where we left the conversation and the discussion with Senator Pratt: do we have the most up-to-date information about the proportion of people who are paying private health insurance premiums who are using public hospitals as a public patient—I should make that clear?

Ms Azmi : I don't believe that anybody collects that data.

Senator SIEWERT: When somebody fronts up to a public hospital, they fill in a lot of paperwork but they don't tick whether they've got private health insurance to enable that information to be collected.

Ms Shakespeare : If that information is being collected it's being collected by the hospitals, so I'm not sure that we have access to it nationally.

CHAIR: I would suggest that, because everybody has access to public hospitals, there is no requirement that they tick that box.

Senator SIEWERT: We're talking about a major public investment, and we don't collect the information to show how many people are actually paying private health premiums and getting a rebate who are using public hospitals. I'm not objecting to people using public hospitals, but I do think the public should know how much public investment they're making in private health insurance and then that not being used. The argument being: wouldn't that money be better spent elsewhere?

Senator PRATT: And how that movement of someone who has a private policy but is admitted as a public patient affects insurance premiums overall?

Senator SIEWERT: Yes.

Senator PRATT: Because I can't see how we can make decisions about excesses and those kinds of issues in the absence of that information.

Senator SIEWERT: The bottom line is: that information is not being collected?

Ms Azmi : That's correct.

Senator SIEWERT: I've got some questions to the department and then to the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Did the department the Attorney-General Department's guide to Commonwealth offences, infringements notices and enforcement powers in framing the entry and inspection powers?

Ms Shakespeare : As with all legislation that's drafted, it's drafted in conjunction with our expert drafters in the Attorney-General's portfolio. So those issues are considered.

Senator SIEWERT: Is it unusual to provide Commonwealth authorities with the power to enter private premises without a warrant?

Ms Shakespeare : I think that there are probably examples in different pieces of legislation. My colleagues might be able to help out with a bit more information.

Mr Manthorpe : I don't have a comprehensive record of that, but I note that the previous witness mentioned that the tax office has powerful options to enter premises without a warrant. I'd also note that in our jurisdiction as Commonwealth Ombudsman—that is, with respect to Commonwealth entities—we do have powers to enter premises to compel witnesses and to compel the production of documents and a variety of other things. The way I see the power that's described in the bill that is before you is that it's analogous to the powers I as Ombudsman already have in other parts of my jurisdiction.

Senator SIEWERT: Can you explain why the power to not require a warrant is needed?

Ms Shakespeare : I am happy to answer that from a policy perspective as to why these provisions were included by the government in the legislation before you. We have been discussing with a range of stakeholders issues around private health insurance over a long period of time through the Private Health Ministerial Advisory Committee and seeking views from consumers. One of the issues that has been discussed with us is that there is at times a perception that there's disproportionate power between the insurer and individual insured people. Consumer groups, I think, support having greater powers resting with the ombudsman to help resolve complaints from individual insured people who are not happy with decisions that may have been made by their insurer. So that's really what's prompted the government to expand the powers of the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman. We don't think that there are many instances where there's not cooperation between insurers and the ombudsman, but there have been some cases.

Mr Manthorpe : I would echo that. Basically, in many cases, we don't need to use the powers that I described that we have in our broader Commonwealth jurisdiction. We don't see ourselves as a sort of heavy-handed entity. We seek to work as collaboratively and as collegiately as we sensibly can while maintaining an impartial and independent approach with the various entities that we have oversight of—and the same applies to private health insurers. But, from time to time, in various parts of our jurisdiction, we really do need to go and have a look at documents, and it would be, from my point of view, useful to have, if you will, a reserve power up our sleeve in this space.

Senator SIEWERT: What evidence do you have that it's needed? Have you ever had an example where you have needed it, specifically in relation to private health insurers?

Mr Manthorpe : I'm not aware of a case where an insurer has, in effect, refused to give us something that we've asked for, but there have been instances where we have needed to go back to an insurer several times to obtain material, and there are also occasions—and my colleagues might want to elucidate on this—when consumers feel that we may not be getting the full story from an insurer. I'm not making a value judgement on that, but it's sometimes a perception that people have. But I wouldn't put it any higher than that. I'm not at all suggesting that the insurers are rampantly refusing to give us documents. That's not the point. I see the point as being around having, as I say, a reserve power just as we do in other parts of our jurisdiction.

Senator SIEWERT: And is the insurer providers knowing that you have that power part of it—a bit of an extra stick?

Mr Manthorpe : Well, they would know. If the legislation passes, I'm sure they'll know we have the power.

Senator SIEWERT: That's what I mean. Is them knowing you now have that power part of the reason that you think it's a good idea Is it you or the department I should be asking?

Mr Manthorpe : If the insurers or anyone else that falls within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Ombudsman knows that the Ombudsman has a power that we can exercise, I think that would serve to encourage people to cooperate with our requests for assistance.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you.

Senator PRATT: I think I can put my question to the Ombudsman on notice, because there are a few more I wanted to ask government. In relation to the cancellations of policies, as you say, the act already allows for it. What is the need for this amendment?

Ms Shakespeare : This is for avoidance of doubt. There have been—and we'll provide on notice the proportions—policies that have no people covered. We understand that some insurers are not convinced that they can close policies where there are still people covered on them at the moment, but the numbers might be very low. It's certainly our understanding that the act does allow that to happen at the moment, but, to ensure that the understanding across industry is consistent, we think it's useful to make this change to the legislation.

Ms Azmi : It's also to be very clear about the consumer protections, the information that we would expect insurers to provide to their customers if a product is being terminated and people are being moved. There are some important consumers protections in terms of clarifying the information that will be available to consumers in these cases.

Senator PRATT: Do insurers currently cancel policies for existing policyholders?

Ms Shakespeare : Yes. There have been a number of examples where insurers have decided for one reason or another that they need to close a policy, and they migrate people covered by that policy onto different policies. What the legislation will do is ensure that a consumer in that situation will have access to information about the policy they're being migrated onto and will be informed that they have a choice, that they don't have to go to that policy and that they can look for a different policy with that insurer or go to a different insurer.

Senator PRATT: Okay. An example of that might be someone ageing out of child-bearing years and an insurance company writing to them asking them if they want to review their things or automatically doing it? How does that work?

Ms Shakespeare : If an insurer were closing a product and migrating people currently on that product to a different product, they would need to provide advice to them about that, but it's a little different from the scenario you just mentioned.

Senator PRATT: Yes, I can see that. Thank you for clarifying that.

The AMA has said that they want to make sure that insurers can't sign people up on a policy and then cancel it 12 months later, moving people onto a policy with more exclusions. The AMA has raised that, whereas health insurers have said they can't do that and the Australian Consumer Law makes that clear. Are you able to explain the way in which the Australian Consumer Law prevents that from happening?

Ms Shakespeare : We're happy to get some advice on that for you. I don't know that anybody here at the table is an expert on the intersection between the private health insurance law and the Consumer Law.

Senator PRATT: Have you got your own rationale for why health insurers can't simply cancel a policy to suit themselves then?

Ms Shakespeare : What's proposed in the legislation before you is that, if they were proposing to close a product, they would have to give information to the consumer well ahead of that change taking effect, with enough time for the consumer to make an informed decision about whether they wanted to be migrated onto that other policy offered to them by the insurer or if they wanted to take their business elsewhere.

CHAIR: We'll just have one final question from Senator Siewert and then we'll adjourn.

Senator SIEWERT: I also wanted to talk about the cancellation policies. Is there a possibility that a consumer could be transferred to a policy that has a higher premium excess or co-payment?

Ms Shakespeare : It would be possible for that to happen. I'm not sure that it's a strategy that many insurers would pursue, because they generally like to encourage people who hold insurance to stay with their firm rather than making their consumers and people who hold their policies very angry and taking their business to other insurers.

Senator PRATT: But can you rule out, for example, that a company couldn't do a marketing storm to market a particular policy and then in 12 months time migrate it to something else that is, in effect, an entirely different product? I think that's where the Consumer Law comes into play, but what's the department's take on that?

Ms Shakespeare : We're happy to get advice about the Consumer Law and what the obligations under that would be and provide that to you by Thursday, but, under the private health insurance legislation, they would have to fully inform the consumer about what they were doing—what detrimental changes they were making to the policy—and give them enough time to consider their options to take out a different policy either with that insurer or with a different insurer.

CHAIR: All right. We will need to leave it there. That concludes today's hearings. We will need questions on notice back by close of business Thursday, the ninth. I thank all those who have given evidence to the committee today.

Committee adjourned at 16:28