Media releases

November 1, 2001

No evidence of cherry-picking

Australia's largest private health fund, Medibank Private, has found no evidence that its members are having difficulty accessing the private hospitals with which the fund has contracts.

Medibank Private has contracts with most private hospitals in Australia and says that any members who believe they have a problem with hospital access should contact the fund. They can call the designated Medibank Private toll-free number:
1300 654 887 .

The statement follows recent claims that some private hospitals are allegedly "cherry-picking" patients - withholding beds from elderly patients who might stay for extended periods in favour of younger patients requiring quicker procedures.

Noting that the hospitals had denied the allegations, Medibank Private managing director, Mark Burrowes, says the fund closely monitors member access to hospitals and says there is no evidence to suggest that members have had or are currently having difficulty accessing private hospitals.

"We hold regular meetings with our hospital providers to discuss the management of our contract agreements and in the course of dialogue we seek and will continue to seek their assurances that access is not an issue likely to impact on our members.

"Private health insurance is designed to offer members certainty regarding access, control and choice of health care.

"If evidence emerged from Medibank Private members of deliberate manipulation of access by hospital providers then we would need to seriously reconsider our relationship with the hospital in the interests of our members."

Mr Burrowes says there have been some isolated instances where Medibank Private members have not been accommodated in the hospital of their choice and have had to be transferred to another private hospital.

"This has been as a result of short-term issues which arise from time to time, such as insufficient beds or insufficient staff to deal with patients, particularly during cold or flu epidemics in winter," he said

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