Waiting lists to grow: 216,000 extra public hospital admissions

18 June, 2009

Four times more people than predicted by Treasury may go without private health insurance as a result of changes to the private health rebate and Medicare levy surcharge, Catholic Health Australia (CHA) revealed recently.

CHA, representing 75 Catholic not-for-profit hospitals, has published independent research that shows the Government’s new private health insurance changes could result in up to 100,000 people going without insurance.

The analysis, by Access Economics, found the rebate and Medicare levy surcharge changes could stretch public hospital waiting lists by an additional 36,000 people who would otherwise have been treated in private hospitals.

These forecasts come on top of Treasury predictions that 492,000 people are still expected to forgo insurance as a result of the 2008/09 Budget.

“When you combine the number of people likely to forgo their insurance as a result of this new change and last year’s changes, we will see 600,000 fewer people insured than would have otherwise been the case,” CHA CEO Martin Laverty said.

“This means some 216,000 extra admissions to public hospitals.”

The CHA research calls for extra funds to be provided to public hospitals operated by State and Territory Governments and the 21 public hospitals operated by Catholic Health Australia members, to cover the costs of treating 216,000 extra public patients.

It also indicates that the economic downturn is likely to prompt an additional decline in private health insurance coverage, which will result in even greater pressure on already stretched public services.

“We oversee 75 not-for-profit Catholic hospitals. Catholic hospitals treat both public and private patients. Our experience is that changes to private health insurance have their biggest impact on public patients,” Laverty said.

“Treasury did not talk to health care providers before proposing these changes to private health. There is evidence Treasury barely consulted the Department of Health and Ageing until after these plans were well advanced.

“State, Territory, and Catholic Public Hospitals will need extra resources to meet this increase in demand, and we’re looking to the Federal Government to act.”