Topics: Private patients in public hospitals; same-sex marriage.
The Federal Minister for Health is Greg Hunt and he’s on the line. Greg, good to talk again, mate, and Merry Christmas to you.
And good morning, Luke, and good morning to everybody who’s listening.
I saw this release come through the week. I mean, there are lots of things to see from Canberra during the week, but this particularly caught my attention, and I was glad to see you make that point.
There are people, there are patients who end up in the public system for whatever reason, and they do get asked by – maybe not just once, maybe several times – someone within the hospital system: oh, can we use your private cover to pay for all of this, saying that if you don’t you’re going to have to pay something.
And it does, in my mind, when people are unwell, resemble in part bullying. I mean, I know this goes on, you know that this goes on. This is something that the state governments in every state would be encouraging, surely?
Look, that’s correct. Just to explain it to everybody, the practice is this. Anybody at any time should, and always should, have the ability to go into a public hospital. What’s happening here though is that some of the states, particularly Victoria and Queensland, are pressuring, through the hospital system, patients at their most vulnerable to use their private health insurance for things where that shouldn’t be the case.
Now, there are two consequences. One is it helps drive up the cost of private health insurance, and we’re at this time looking to have the lowest premium increases in over a decade.
And secondly, it also blows out public waiting lists. So as you mentioned, the waiting list for somebody who is going through the public hospital as a public patient is now double what it is for somebody who’s going…
Oh, that line’s dropped out. Alright, we’ll get the Minister back on, or he’ll call back in. See, there’s another point, and I think a good point, the Minister raises. So you’re in the public system with a whole lot of people in the public system who are in a queue for surgery.
You get wheeled in and they say, oh yeah, you’ve got private cover, can we use that? All of a sudden you take their spot in the queue. Is that fair? Shouldn’t they be in the private system? I mean, seriously, whilst there’s all sorts of wonderful celebrations and dancing and rainbows and the like, there are other things going on that affect you and me directly, and this, I think, is one of them.
Minister, we’ve got you back. You were making the point about waiting lists just then.
Yes, absolutely. Sorry about that – phone system just dropped out.
No, the waiting list is very clear that it’s double the time for a public patient in a public hospital, often those that can’t afford private health insurance, as opposed to a private patient in a public hospital, and it should be equal treatment for everybody in public hospitals.
I think this process at the moment of what I call ‘harvesting’, where some state governments, particularly Victoria and Queensland, will literally chase patients around the emergency department until they sign over their private hospital and private health insurance rights. That’s not appropriate.
You’ve raised this issue, I know, with COAG ministers. What was the outcome of those discussions? Is there any light at the end of this tunnel for us that are paying higher than what we should for private health insurance?
I think there is, and I think there is on two fronts. Firstly, we’ve just put in place the biggest private health insurance reform package in over 15 years, and that involved a billion dollars of savings through lower cost medical devices.
That will get passed onto the patients and the premium holders in terms of lower premiums than would otherwise be the case, and faster access to new medical devices – so if you think knees, hips, stents, items for cardiac surgery, so really important things.
The second is that we will now pursue, through the next hospitals agreement with the states, greater controls over this practice of harvesting private patients in public hospitals, of literally just chasing them around the emergency department and trying to put the pressure on them, when that’s not an appropriate thing to do.
Yeah. To other matters from the week past, I thought it was a bit rich for Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek and others to say yesterday the Prime Minister and his colleagues in the frontbench of the Liberal Party shouldn’t be in part claiming some victory over same-sex marriage, particularly given the fact the ALP stood between us, the people, and your plebiscite.
Correct. The ALP opposed the Australian people having a vote. I believe in this deeply, I have strongly supported it, and you know, whether you’re a yes voter or a no voter, because every Australian had a say it has a legitimacy and it will have an acceptance.
And I’m deeply respectful of those that voted no, and we put in place religious protections and endeavoured to put in place even stronger ones but they were opposed by the ALP.
But the entire plebiscite was opposed at every possible step by Bill Shorten, apart from when you know, three years ago he stood up before the Christian Lobby and said I support a plebiscite, and miraculously that view disappeared, and it sort of says everything you need to know about him.
He’ll say one thing to one audience and another thing to another. He apparently believes in gay marriage, but then opposed the plebiscite because he didn’t want something like that to be successful on a Coalition watch. That’s not somebody who believes in anything and it’s not really somebody you trust.