Doorstop at Mt Martha, Victoria

Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's doostop at Mt Martha, Victoria regarding private health insurance and the London terror attack.

Page last updated: 18 September 2017

PDF printable version of Doorstop at Mt Martha, Victoria (PDF 210 KB)

16 September 2017

E&OE…

Topics: Private health insurance; London terror attack

GREG HUNT:
The Coalition is focussed on taking the pressure off private health insurance customers. Private health is fundamental to choice, it’s fundamental to the ability of Australians to have peace of mind.

Our task and our commitment is to work towards strong downward pressure on the premium price rises of the past.

We’ve just delivered the lowest increase in 10 years, but we need to do more and we need to get better results, and our commitment is to work with the private health insurers, the private hospitals and the device-makers to deliver that outcome.

Better choice, better access to mental health, and decreased pressure on premiums.

JOURNALIST:
You mentioned there working with these groups, but how do you bring prices down?

GREG HUNT:
So the things that we can do are firstly to make it simpler so as people are able to choose more easily. Secondly, to work on the cost of what are called prostheses, or devices that are implanted in the body, these have clearly been too high and are significantly contributing to the cost of private health insurance.

Thirdly, we want to, through things such as better access to mental health, make private health more attractive to young people, and the more young people who are involved, the lower the average cost of premiums.

JOURNALIST:
How much do you think you can bring prices down by?

GREG HUNT:
Well, we want to make significant reductions in terms of the pressures on premiums. I won’t put a figure on it, understandably, because we’re in negotiations, but we’re in negotiations right now with the device-makers, the private hospitals and the private insurers.

JOURNALIST:
How close are you to reaching agreement, for example, with the medical device sector?

GREG HUNT:
Well, I would hope that within the next month we can reach an agreement, and this could be an historic agreement which will give people better access at lower cost not just to private health, but to a range of medical treatments.

JOURNALIST:
And how does reaching that kind of agreement with the device sector then bring the premiums down?

GREG HUNT:
So the cost of devices is a significant part of the cost of private health insurance. There is an unacceptable divide between the cost of the same device for a public patient and the same device for a private patient.

In other words, what we’ve seen is that there have been inflated prices for the same device if it’s in the hands of a private patient. The patients are the ones that have had to pay the price, and that translates to their premiums.

JOURNALIST:
Are you also looking at removing support for things such as natural therapy?

GREG HUNT:
I won’t speculate on the final outcome of the package. The critical thing is that we have improved choice and reduced pressure on premiums and increased access to things such as mental health.

There are a range of items that are being discussed at the moment, and we’ll work with the private health insurers on those.

JOURNALIST:
Would that, though, help in making health insurance cheaper, if you did remove subsidies for those kind of areas?

GREG HUNT:
Look, that’s been put forward by some, but it’s also attractive and important to many. So that’s something that will be determined through the negotiations, but all up our commitment is very clear.

We want to make significant changes to the pressures that are on private health insurance costs. Frankly, private health is a fundamental article of faith for the vast majority of Australians and for the Coalition, but the pressures of the last decade need to be reduced.

They simply have to be reduced, and that’s something I’m fighting for and that’s something we’ll keep fighting until we deliver it.

JOURNALIST:
This is obviously- you’re talking about targeting the cost, but also trying to stop people leaving the private health insurance system. If people do keep leaving, what impact is that going to have?

GREG HUNT:
Well, having a strong private health insurance sector is critically important to the viability of our private hospitals and it’s critically important to keeping waiting times down in our public hospitals.

Some of the states have been driving up the price of private health insurance premiums and driving up their waiting lists by virtually coercing people with private health insurance to enter public hospitals as private patients.

That drives up public hospital waiting lists and public waiting lists for so many Australians who simply can’t afford to wait and simply can’t afford private health insurance, so it’s deeply unfair on them.

So we would ask the states to come to the party too, and if private health insurance were to drop, that would have an additional impact on state public hospital waiting times. So we need their help and we’ll do everything we can.

JOURNALIST:
Are you going to take action or target the so-called junk policy?

GREG HUNT:
Well, this is the same question. It’s being considered as part of the broad mix of actions, the package that we will take to reduce the private health insurance premium pressures. But above all else, we want people to have choices to their policies and the ability to afford them.

JOURNALIST:
When will we know exactly what you’re proposing?

GREG HUNT:
We’re looking to bring a final package to the private health insurers once we’ve completed negotiations with the device-makers, and we hope by the end of October that we’ll have that out in time for them to reduce their premiums for the coming year.

JOURNALIST:
And if there’s no action on this, how much will prices continue to rise by?

GREG HUNT:
Well, over the last decade we’ve seen prices rise by over 6 per cent for almost every year, other than this year, which has reduced to 4.8 per cent, but that’s still too high and we need to keep pushing lower.

JOURNALIST:
Right. And just a quick question on the Berkeley Living nursing home in Melbourne. You might have seen the reports about staff in the home in Patterson Lakes who walked off the job apparently, leaving the residents to fend for themselves, what’s your response to what’s been reported there?

GREG HUNT:
I am deeply concerned and I have asked the Aged Care Minister to investigate as a matter of absolute priority.

JOURNALIST:
Alright, thanks Minister. Look, I think that’s probably all we need there. Thank you so much.

GREG HUNT:
Great. I’ll just make one brief statement on London.

We stand squarely with the people of the United Kingdom. This attack is an attack on all societies around the world.

Terrorism is simply an affront to free people everywhere and we will fight these terrorists and we will fight against their sick ideology on every single day that we are in office.

That’s our duty, that’s our task, and that’s our commitment.

JOURNALIST:
Alright. Thanks so much, Minister.

(ENDS)

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