Greg Hunt has taken on the role of Health Minister from the outbound Sussan Ley after she resigned last week amid an expenses scandal relating to her recent property purchase. Mr Hunt is Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's fourth appointee to the role of Health Minister since he took office in September 2015.
"I have, and we have, a rock solid commitment to the future of Medicare."
The new Health Minister has previously worked with the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Industry, Innovation and Science portfolios over his career as a minister. He states that he is passionate about the health portfolio as well, in an ABC News article from January 18. What could that mean for the health insurance industry in Australia?
"I have, and we have, a rock solid commitment to the future of Medicare. It is simply indispensable."
Mr Hunt will also make mental health a focus of his tenure as the Health Minister. Prime Minister Turnbull will be hoping he stays on for longer than the previous three appointees, and is pleased with the commitment Mr Hunt has already shown in his time working in his cabinet.
"He is ideally suited to take on the very important, critically important front line portfolio of health and sport," he said.
Why did Minister Sussan Ley step down?
Outbound Minister Sussan Ley stepped down amid controversy surrounding her recent property purchase while on a taxpayer-funded trip. She claimed the purchase was not planned, that it was an impulse buy, but she was still using taxpayer-funded time for personal interests.
On New Year's Eve, she was also criticised for billing the taxpayer to attend two events hosted by a Queensland spokesperson and major party donor. Prime Minister Turnbull hopes he can now focus on creating a more transparent and accountable cabinet.
What does this mean for Australia's health insurance industry?
At the time of Mr Hunt's appointment to Health Minister, there was a freeze on Medicare benefits. This means the government would not fund as much of doctors' costs, including for devices, staff and utilities. With the higher costs of running a medical practice, there was concern over motivation of practitioners.
Labor's health spokesperson Catherine King has called for Mr Hunt to lift the freeze.
"Malcolm Turnbull has changed his salesperson when it comes to health, but he hasn't changed a single one of his policies," she said to ABC News.
If Mr Hunt doesn't make positive steps toward improving Australia's health system, in both the public and private sectors, we could be faced with yet another unpopular and outbound Health Minister in Prime Minister Turnbull's cabinet.
To review your health insurance needs, get in touch with HICA today.