Date published: 
24 July 2018
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

RAY HADLEY:

Mr Hunt, G’day to you.

GREG HUNT:

Good morning, Ray.

RAY HADLEY:

Nice to talk to you. I know you’re pressed for time but there are two issues I wanted to discuss with you. Listeners have contacted me about changes to their private health care with Bupa. The changes mean Bupa policyholders will have new restrictions placed on their choice of hospital or day surgery.

Basically, gap cover will only be available to procedures performed on patients within the Bupa network. Now, one of those that’s not there at the moment is the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse, and of course, I got a call from a man whose wife is suffering with cancer who is treated there but he’s with Bupa. Can you enlighten me as to what’s going to happen here?

GREG HUNT:

Yes, I can. And I spoke with the CEO of Bupa last night. And as you know, I have raised this issue with them previously and also with the- what’s called the Private Health Insurance Industry Ombudsman. Now, the indication I have is that Bupa and the magnificent, magnificent Chris O’Brien Lifehouse are close to an agreement.

I have urged Bupa to be generous, to be constructive. But I did get very positive messages from the CEO last night. So we are doing our best as a federal government, it’s a private relationship but my involvement has been to very, very clearly urge for an agreement and on balance, I’m very optimistic.

RAY HADLEY:

How did this come to pass? I know you can’t tell Bupa and HCF and other health insurers what to do but how did it come to pass, all of a sudden they decided to change the rules and decide that where you could be directed for surgery and treatment?

GREG HUNT:

Well, it’s a- what they have is a contractual relationship and they were negotiating their contract, there was some risk to it and we’ve taken a strong view publicly and a clear view privately. And as of last night and also in the letter that you’ve provided from Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, my judgement is that they are very close to an agreement and I have urged them all to continue working. Because at the end of the day this is about patients, patients, patients and the most ill, the sickest of patients who have life-threatening cancers.

RAY HADLEY:

Now, I did get a very extensive letter from the chief executive of the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Eileen Hannagan. But this final paragraph concerned me because I’ve actually sung the praises of HCF on my program because I’ve been with them for most of my adult life.

She wrote, in closing Ray, once the Bupa deal is complete with the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and have agreements in place with over 30 private health insurers in Australia as well as the DVA, we only have one hospital contribution fund remaining, being HCF out of contract, we’re in negotiation with HCF at the moment, we’d greatly appreciate the chance to work with you, after the Bupa deal is signed, to announce this is good news and we should – should we need to – simultaneously but pressure on HCF to do the same.

Now, I mean, it’s not my job to be putting pressure on HCF but I’ll tell you what, if Chris O’Brien Lifehouse ask me to do anything, I’ll do whatever I need to do to make sure that the pressure is there. Particularly as I pay a premium to HCF and if I happen to contract cancer, I want to be treated at the best place possible, that would be the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. And I’d be imploring HCF to get off their backsides and to do the same deal that Bupa are about to do. Would you agree?

GREG HUNT:

Well we’ve also spoken to the CEO. My office spoke, I was travelling last night, with the CEO and we have urged them to work with them. They have not, until now, I’m advised, had a contract at all with Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. So, it would be additional services compared with what is currently the case.

So we are encouraging both parties very strongly, again, for the benefit of patients, because at the end of the day, exactly as you’ve set out, this is about patients who have cancer to ensure that they have the best possible treatment and that is such an important thing. And we’re blessed around Australia with so many fine cancer institutes. I was at Peter MacCallum last week, I was at The Kinghorn Centre in Sydney last week, and I’ve been recently to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and honestly, these people do the work of angels.

RAY HADLEY:

Well, let me just assure HCF, as I have said previously I’m with them, I’m not with Bupa but if HCF don’t do a deal with Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, I’ll be opting out of HCF and I’ll encourage all my listeners with HCF, despite their normal excellent work, to go and find another health insurance company as well.

So the ball is back in the court of the CEO of HCF, do the deal with Chris O’Brien Lifehouse or I’ll make it my life’s work to encourage people, including starting with me, to dissociate myself with HCF.

GREG HUNT:

Well, I suspect that they will hear that message loud and clear.

RAY HADLEY:

Okay. Now, just finally, I know you got to go but My Health. I had a- I came back from leave last Monday, had a range of complaints about people trying to opt-out online, they couldn’t do it. We started talking about it on Friday, we talked about it yesterday again and now I’m getting a stack of emails today saying it looks like it’s all hunky dory. Has there been a problem with the computer?

GREG HUNT:

So, I’ve made very extensive enquiries and we get daily updates from the security centre and from Department of Human Services, the advice that I have and we’ve enquired is that the system has been working continuously.

However, we were always monitoring it, what might happen is that people could have a session timeout or an internet dropout or open more than one internet browser window but if there are issues, the best thing is for anybody to call the number 1800 723 471 – 1800 723 471. And the advice that I’ve had is that 90 per cent of actions have been able to be taken directly through the online system and some people are calling the centre number.

RAY HADLEY:

Okay. There was one tip I’d give people because a couple of people said the same thing to me. I haven’t opted out, by the way but friends I have, have opted out. They’ve used their licence, so a New South Wales, Queensland licence number unsuccessfully but when they enter their passport number it solves the problem for some particular reason, I don’t know why but that’s what they’ve told me.

GREG HUNT:

Yeah. The important thing, this is a chance to have the best medical protection. There was a very powerful article from a lifelong GP who’s the head of the AMA, Dr Tony Bartone, today, about saving lives and how it can protect people and it’s exactly the same as your GP record, it’s the basic material that you have there.

They might not upload all of it but your general medical history. And when people go from hospital or from GP clinic to GP clinic or even within a GP clinic you’re seeing a new doctor for the first time, then it will help you and facilitate you and you have total control. But it’s everybody’s choice. And I think that’s the critical thing is it’s everybody’s choice and you have total control.

RAY HADLEY:

Well I’d use one example. I got Influenza B, was hospitalised last year, and luckily my GP was not far away. But when I was first there and they diagnosed me and everyone came into the ward with a mask on, I knew I had a problem but they should have been able to, with a press of a button, download every operation, every procedure I’d had and any previous problems I’d had with my lungs and the like. Luckily, my doctor turned up with all those records very quickly. But the My Health system means that the attending doc or the attending physician can go bang, crash, wallop, straight way.

GREG HUNT:

That’s exactly right.

RAY HADLEY:

Alright then. How many people do you think will opt-out in percentage terms?

GREG HUNT:

Look, we’re expecting that, we were expecting up to 90 per cent would be enrolled and looks like it will be more than that now. So it’s actually tracking ahead of our positive expectations.

RAY HADLEY:

Alright. I appreciate your time at short notice, thanks for explaining all that. And let’s keep the pressure on Bupa and HCF to do the deal with the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

GREG HUNT:

Will do. Thanks, Ray.

RAY HADLEY:

Thanks, Minister. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt online.

Ministers: