Topics: private health insurance; new cancer medicines
Health Minister Greg Hunt joins me live now from Melbourne. Good morning to you, Minister.
Good morning, Peter
This is designed to make a very complicated system much clearer but many people, such as pregnant mothers and people suffering from chronic back pain are going to be forced to take out more expensive premiums. So how is that fair?
No, that’s incorrect, with respect. No change in prices.
What we have here is a simplified system so everybody knows exactly what is in and what’s not in their private health coverage.
In particular, for the first time, people will be able to see on a single page what is included and what isn’t. There’s no increase in prices as a result of this but there is an increase in coverage for many women with gynaecological conditions, with treatment for some women’s cancers, so that’s a very important step.
But our fundamental rule was: no change in prices, simply to categorise what’s there. So people aren’t buying things for which they don’t need coverage but they are getting the things for which they do need coverage.
So just for clarification, Minister, are you promising people will not be forced to pay more?
Well, that’s absolutely been the principle and that’s the design and that’s the outcome.
My rule, from day one, when I came into office was, this system of simplification, which allows you to know exactly what’s in and exactly what’s not in, would only be done on the basis that it wasn’t leading to a change in prices.
And in fact we’ve just had the lowest change in prices prior to this system in 17 years, and now we’ll also be able to introduce discounts of up to 10 per cent for young people under 30 to bring them into the system, and that helps with the overall cost.
So, there was some inaccuracy in what was reported. So I’m really pleased that what everybody wants is to know what’s in, what’s out, no surprises. And, for the first time ever, you’ll know the policy you’re purchasing, what it includes, what it doesn’t, and you’ll be able to see this on a single page.
So what happens if a treatment is re-classified as a gold treatment?
What’s happening here is we’re taking existing policies and we’re categorising them by the services that are provided. So you can see if it’s a gold policy, it includes everything. If you’ve got a current policy suddenly you’ll discover: I always thought I was covered for something and I’m not, now I’ll know this.
Or: I don’t need to be covered because I’m a male or I’m a woman who’s beyond childbearing age for pregnancy, therefore I don’t need that type of policy. And one of the great complaints that we have is that many males, many women beyond childbearing age will say: I’ve only just discovered I’m being covered for pregnancy, when of course there’s absolutely no need for that. And women who do need to be covered for pregnancy will know absolutely that they are covered and that’s the critical thing.
We’re not changing policies, we’re categorising them so as everybody can see very simply what’s in, what’s out and exactly what they are personally covered for.
Okay. Well, Labor have called for junk policies to be banned. Why include them?
Well, these are basic policies and their approach would lead to a 16 per cent increase in the overall cost of private health insurance, which would be catastrophic.
So in other words, what they’re effectively saying is: we want to get rid of lower-cost policies. And that would hurt pensioners, that would hurt lower-income families, it would be an outcome which would make private health insurance beyond the reach of hundreds of thousands and indeed, in many cases, millions of Australians.
Private health comes at different levels, and the critical thing is to give people the choice so they can select what works for them and what doesn’t.
But to take away the lower-cost policies would add a 16 per cent increase to the cost of private health insurance. It’s really basically saying: we want to destroy private health insurance. We believe in it and we’ll protect it.
Unfortunately, I think they have a different approach.
Just finally, Minister, today you’ve announced $250 million funding for cancer medicine. So, who’s going to benefit there?
So, four new medicines to help head and neck cancer patients, to help those with lymphoma and to help those with leukaemia.
These will mean that medicines that in some cases would have been over $130,000 a year will now be available under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for either $39.50 a script or $6.40.
So, dramatic, life-changing, in some cases life-saving medicines. Really an important day.
Health Minister Greg Hunt, thank you very much for your time this morning.