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    Demands on our health system threaten to swamp both public and private healthcare

    Craig Drummond APHA

    We are all in agreement.

    Unless we address the growing demands on both the public and private health system, the future of our world class health system is under threat.

    Healthcare costs are growing at 5-6% every year which means governments will continue to pay more for public hospitals and Medicare through our taxes, and health insurance premiums will continue to rise.

    This week APRA called on insurers to draw on their expertise to develop specific policies to reform the industry.

    We are up for the challenge. But the entire health sector must rally behind us and commit to reforms to protect the future of the dual public-private system for all Australians.

    And sometimes that can be a painful process, but it would be even more painful to see our public and private health system swamped.

    We are not just asking others to change, we are also changing. We have been holding ourselves to account on our own costs – cutting $60 million out of our management expenses – we must do some of the heavy lifting too.

    Medibank has been committed to driving reform over the last three years to improve value for our customers.

    We are focused on making the private health system more affordable, including continuing to address out-of-pocket costs, promoting greater cost and quality transparency for patients, tackling higher-than-necessary prostheses prices, exploring alternative models of care like at-home care, and focusing on preventative care and chronic disease management.

    If we look at alternative models of care we must focus on care that delivers the best outcomes for patients. Why, for example, should a patient who can receive rehabilitation at home with the exact same clinical outcomes spend days on end receiving rehabilitation in a hospital? And why can’t we as a community do more to keep Australians out of hospital in the first place, especially through preventative programs that help people avoid or minimise chronic disease onset?

    Medibank has pushed for reforms to take cost out of the health system with both major political parties. And we are pushing for reforms to be accepted and promoted by the private healthcare industry, not just insurers. Everyone in the healthcare industry – public and private – must be willing to pursue reforms, even if they are hard, in order to keep our health system strong.

    The AMA is rightly calling for greater focus on and investment in preventative care and GP-led services. With around half of all Australians suffering from chronic disease, our health system needs a more robust and considered approach to chronic disease management.

    More holistic care of at-risk patients could reduce their hospitalisations by 19%, which can improve patient outcomes and reduce hospital costs by $1 billion across both the private and public hospital system. There is capacity to deliver better treatment and prevention programs for people with chronic disease, particularly with a focus on better health outcomes.

    In the previous term of Government, we saw good progress on reducing prostheses prices but there’s still another $500 million in savings to be realised. One option is for the Government to establish a national independent body to manage the procurement of prostheses. Any savings would be passed in their entirety to our customers.

    We have options to heal our health system, the question is can we all come together to deliver what we all know must be done?

    I am up for the challenge to ensure a sustainable healthcare system for all Australians in the future.

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