Calls to the scrap the private health insurance rebate are in a state of flux, as Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has made his position on the matter clear.
Minister Cormann has rejected the calls and maintains that the current system is working as is.
Welfare groups across Australia have been the driving force in pressuring the government, as changes to proposed policies were altered earlier in January before they could come into effect.
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has been quick to point out any holes in the Federal Government's ongoing tinkering, while accepting changes announced by Health Minister Sussan Ley earlier this month.
"ACOSS welcomes the decision by the new Health Minister Sussan Ley to take the changes to Medicare rebates off the table. However the original policy for co-payments to GP services remains deeply flawed as a budget measure and inequitable in its impacts on those most needing to access GP services," explained ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.
ACOSS has outlined a three point plan that is aimed to jolt the government into action. It is urging the powers that be to:
- Abolish the private health insurance rebate altogether.
- Abolish the extended Medicare safety net. This subsidy is claimed by ACOSS to cost the public an additional $400 million a year.
- Overhaul ineffective industry subsidies. With particular reference to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, ACOSS believes around $2 billion could be saved by carrying out changes.
"The Government needs to start again on health policy, and give top priority to supporting a decent universal health system, which is cost-effective," Dr Goldie continued.
The ASOSS proposal also stated that Australian healthcare – and the need to better balance the budget – is somewhat of a basket case, and drawing inspiration from elsewhere would be detrimental for both the government and the wider public.
"The Australian public does not want an American-style health system, and the budget cannot afford it," Dr Goldie says.
"We urge [the government] to work closely with all stakeholders in the community to develop the right policies for ensuring sustained health care that is fair, accessible and affordable into the future," she went on to conclude.
Be that as it may, it appears that Minister Cormann in particular is at loggerheads with those opposing a cut to the private health insurance rebate. He believes that the system is effective as is, claiming that the rebate is currently proving sustainable and doing more good than harm.
"The private health insurance rebate, [was introduced] at a time when private health insurance membership was in freefall. [It] was an important policy lever to help restore balance," Minister Cormann told ABC Radio as reported by The Australian.
Minister Cormann has not challenged the assumption that his answer to the calls of ASOSS is effectively a no, but he did offer some solace to existing private help insurance consumers across the country.
"The [government] is strongly committed to supporting those Australians who take additional responsibility for their own health care needs," he went on to say.
While Minister Cormann was quick to point out that the government is doing all it can – with the supposed best interests of the Australian public in mind – the issues regarding the scrapping of the rebate look set to rumble on.
Ongoing issues surrounding the rebate make it the ideal time to consider the viability of your own private health cover. Whether it's an existing or new policy, gathering only the best advice surrounding the nuances of what each health fund can offer is crucial.
To tap in to a wealth of expert, impartial advice, give HICA a call on 1300 44 22 01.