Australia’s peak non-government organisation for rural and remote health has today welcomed the proposal for a comprehensive Productivity Commission review of private health insurance, put forward by the Opposition yesterday, to improve the affordability of private health insurance for all Australian healthcare consumers.
The rising costs of insurance premiums, as well concerns over value for money and access to services are key issues for the seven million people living in rural and remote areas of Australia.
In welcoming the proposed initiative, Mark Diamond, CEO of the National Rural Health Alliance, has emphasised the need for any review to consider the circumstances faced by people living outside of major metropolitan areas:
“We would very much hope that a Productivity Commission review would report specifically on the situation faced by people living in rural and remote areas ¬¬– many of whom simply can't take full advantage of their private health insurance due to limited access to healthcare services. We maintain that consideration needs to be given to reducing premiums for people living in rural and remote areas or provide proper access to private services in these locations.”
These issues were emphasised by the Alliance at last year’s second public hearing of the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee on the value and affordability of private health insurance and out-of-pocket medical costs. Despite this, the Committee’s recommendations made no specific reference to the situation faced by privately insured individuals living in rural and remote areas.
Noting that the recently established Ministerial Advisory Committee on out-of-pocket costs also has no direct rural and remote representation, Mr Diamond warns that the country voice is in danger of being drowned out of the debate:
“Roughly 50% of people who live in rural and remote areas have some level of private health insurance and are therefore major stakeholders when it comes to this issue. Given the unique circumstances they are faced with in terms of service access, it is absolutely critical that due consideration is given to their collective voices.”
Mark Diamond, CEO
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