Interview with Mark Levy - 2GB

Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's inteview on 2GB with Mark Levy.

Page last updated: 10 February 2017

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10 February 2017

E&OE…

Topics: Lowest health insurance premium increases in a decade

MARK LEVY:
Greg Hunt is the Minister for Health. He joins me on the line right now. G'day Greg.

GREG HUNT:
G'day Mark.

MARK LEVY:
Now mate, take us through the price hike. Will it vary for people depending on which health fund or policy they hold?

GREG HUNT:
It will. So this is the lowest increase in a decade. So historically they've been increasing at between 5 per cent and 6 per cent and over 6 per cent.

We've managed to get it down to the lowest in over a decade, lower than in any of the ALP years in government. But it still is of importance to families.

Every single dollar's important. So it's an average of 4.8 per cent and that is also lower than the total increase in the amount that the health funds have had to pay out.

They've had to pay about 5.4 per cent, and then the next result is that for families and for singles, it's the lowest increase in a decade.

But I understand every single dollar is challenging and that's why we've made half a billion dollars of savings for the health insurers by reducing the cost forcing the cost down of what are called prosthetics or, in some cases, implants.

And then I've also spoken to the CEOs of the big five insurers and the heads of the health insurance bodies and got a clear commitment from them that they will work with us to help bring these increases down further still over the next year.

MARK LEVY:
Greg, you keep saying it's the lowest, but it still is three times the rate of inflation. So Australians listening to you at the moment will be saying well, minister, how is that fair?

GREG HUNT:
Well, it's actually for Health, the relevant point is how much have the health insurance funds been paying out. So their total payouts have gone up 5.4 per cent, and we have squeezed them hard and got that down to 4.8 which is as I say the lowest in the decade and lower than any of the Labor years.

But now we have also got a commitment from all of the big health insurers to work hard over the next year to reduce that impact even more, because every single dollar does matter for the families.

MARK LEVY:
I'm sure that you would concede that given the cost of living, it's going up through the roof, it's getting more and more expensive to support families and families are already struggling with some of the expenses that they have to fork out on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.

So what would you say to the struggling families that now have to fork out even more money just to cover themselves for health?

GREG HUNT:
Well, I absolutely understand this, which is why I fought and we have fought to get these premiums down as low as possible.

And I think if you say wow, that's the lowest change in a decade, clearly something is working about the way we're going about it.

MARK LEVY:
But minister, you keep saying it's the lowest, it's the lowest. We're talking about an increase meaning families will pay $4500 a year, with singles forking out $1250. That's a lot of money.

GREG HUNT:
It is, and I have absolutely no doubt that for many families, for many, many families, health insurance is something for which they work incredibly hard, and my focus is to do everything we can to drive down those premiums and any increase in the premiums.

The important thing, the biggest single component of that is the fact that some of the state governments are pulling private health patients into the public hospitals, increasing the cost of the premiums by taking those funds and adding the cost, and also putting pressure on public patient waiting lists.

And so that's one of the things we want to work on with the states and I want to work with what are called the device makers.

I think there are more savings to be made there, and I want to work with the private health insurers and I've spoken to all of the big five CEOs that represent 80 per cent.

MARK LEVY:
Tell me if I'm going along the wrong way here, Greg, and I'm just thinking out loud here. If families cannot afford to pay their private health insurance so say the one [inaudible] here in the studio. He's got a beautiful young daughter, his wife.

He can't afford to pay his health insurance. Doesn't that then put more pressure on the public system which then comes out of the taxpayer purse?

GREG HUNT:
Well, that's exactly why we were the party that had started private health insurance and has supported it.

The previous Labor Government broke their election promise, broke their election promise and ripped into the rebate whereas we have said we're committed to the rebate, and what happens is that they took 4.5 billion out of government support for private health insurance.

The latest advice that I have, the best estimates from the Department of Health is that the total number of people with private health insurance is still likely to increase by just over 300,000 for the coming year.

However, these pressures are real, and that's why it's our job and my job to fight as hard as we can to work with the states and to put all of the pressure we can on the health insurers and the private hospitals to reduce the costs.

MARK LEVY:
Let's get to a couple of quick ones before I let you go, because I understand you have to step into a meeting.

The Shadow Health Minister federally has just held a press conference and she claims that you, minister, are making it harder to access the healthcare that Australians really need. What's your response?

GREG HUNT:
Well, it's a bizarre claim. Labor broke their promise and ripped $4.5 billion out of what's called the private health insurance rebate.

That drove up costs. Costs went up 38 per cent under Labor and we've got the lowest in 10 years. So why did they break their promise?

Why did they rip into the rebate? And why did they have 38 per cent, whereas you'd say well why is it the lowest in 10 years? Lowest in a decade now. Because we actually believe in private health insurance.

MARK LEVY:
Alright. Malcolm Turnbull, he’s certainly showing some fight in Question Time this week. Is it enough for the Prime Minister to win back support?

GREG HUNT:
Oh look, I think that what Australians are seeing is that he is unbelievably tough and tenacious and the fight that we are on is doing everything we can to work for Australian families and people across the country in terms of giving them a shot at jobs and giving them the chance to have the lowest possible impact on their cost of living in terms of electricity, but also the lowest costs in a decade here.

MARK LEVY:
Alright Greg, and one last one to finish us off, a little bit of a lighter hearted one. I was sitting here in the studio the other day watching Sky News and there was a little tumble off the stage.

Now this happens to me all the time, but I was a little bit disappointed that Bill Shorten didn't offer you a hand to help you up, minister.

GREG HUNT:
Well, I was lucky. I came off after giving a speech on ovarian cancer and we've listed a new drug that which would have otherwise have cost the sufferers $100,000 a year and that will now be $38.80 or $6.30 a script and after coming off the stage, it was my fault, I just sort of caught my foot and did a little tumble but fortunately a soft landing and a quick bounce back, and to be fair to Bill, he didn't have a chance.

I was lucky enough to be up within about half a second.

MARK LEVY:
Well, Greg, all the people that were watching on here in Sydney, you got a 9.6 from the judges so well done.

GREG HUNT:
Oh well somebody said good speech, but you lost points on the dismount.

MARK LEVY:
The backwards somersault with pike didn't really look that good. Good on you, Greg, great to talk to you.

GREG HUNT:
Thanks a lot, bye bye.

ENDS

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