RACGP warns against private health insurers covering GP services

10 November, 2015

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) warns a two-tiered health system could be created if private health insurers are allowed to cover GP services.

RACGP President Dr Frank R Jones said involving private health insurers in primary healthcare risks the reduction of access to primary and preventative care for uninsured people, particularly if private health insurers arrange preferential treatment for their patients.

Commenting on the Federal Government's Private Health Insurance Consultations 2015-16, which ask consumers to share their views on potential changes to private health insurance, Dr Jones warned against any changes that could undermine Australia's universal access to primary healthcare.

"Patients in Australia currently access GP services regardless of their private health insurance status and any pilot project or program must not create a system where patients with private health insurance receive preferential access," Dr Jones said.

"How private health insurers would support continuity and quality of health care delivered by highly trained, autonomous GPs and general practice teams is unclear.

"It also risks creating a system where insurers dictate care and treatments, taking away the clinical autonomy and decision making central to general practice, which could have a detrimental effect on patient health.

"However, with strict safeguards in place to protect universal access, the RACGP is open to working with the Government to identify potential areas where private health insurers could play a role in improving health outcomes for patients."

Dr Jones said preventative healthcare, targeted chronic disease management and hospital avoidance programs were some areas where, with the right conditions in place, private health insurers could potentially invest to support general practice.

The RACGP will provide a formal submission to the Government’s Private Health Insurance Consultations 2015-16.