Surgeons operating in theatre

Can private health insurance be saved from the jaws of death? – Canberra

Private health insurance has changed dramatically over the past few decades. In 1996 it was not subsidised, and practically everyone who had it had ‘top cover’ – everything was covered and there was no mandated up-front payment (‘excess’). That is now all changed. The overwhelming majority of Australians with insurance having either an excess or exclusions or both. And the Government subsidises the industry to the tune of billions of dollars a year.

The risk profile of private health insurance is also getting worse – young and healthy people are dropping out (or not joining). Something has to change.

Can we cut private hospital costs? Can we stem the flow of surprise bills from greedy doctors? Will that be enough to save private health insurance?

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Dr Stephen Duckett is Director of the Health Program at the Melbourne-based think tank, Grattan Institute. He has held top operational and policy leadership positions in health care in Australia and Canada including as Secretary of what is now the Commonwealth Department of Health. He has a reputation for creativity, evidence-based innovation and reform in areas ranging from the introduction of activity-based funding for hospitals, to new systems of accountability for the safety of hospital care. An economist, he is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Science.

Jo Root has extensive experience in social policy development and analysis with the focus on health and aged care. She worked for the Commonwealth Government in health and then Prime Minister and Cabinet working on the first COAG health and aged care reforms. In Queensland she worked on aged care policy, including the implementation of the 1997 aged care reforms across the State Government nursing homes. She was the National Policy Manager for Council on the Ageing before moving to Consumers Health Forum. She has undergraduate and post graduate qualifications in economics.