Noosa Hospital CEO Oli Steele, right, with Dr Ken Corbett.
Noosa Hospital CEO Oli Steele, right, with Dr Ken Corbett. Contributed

Rebate cut may hurt hospital

NOOSA Hospital could be facing increased pressure to treat people and be forced to divert more patients to Nambour if a Federal Government means-test on private health insurance forces more than 1.6 million Australians to turn to the public sector for treatment over five years.

The Australian Health Insurance Association commissioned company Deloitte to report on the likely impacts of the government’s policy to means-test the 30% rebate on private health insurance.

The AHIA says the report rejects the Australian treasury’s projections that only 25,000 people will drop their private health cover, instead estimating that 175,000 Australians will drop their cover in the first year alone.

And it warns that the cost of servicing the increased demand for public hospitals will outweigh the savings to government from means-testing the 30% rebate.

Noosa Hospital CEO Oli Steele said his management team had real concerns about the patient health outcomes if the AHIA research proved more accurate.

Mr Steele said Noosa patients would increasingly seek treatment in the public sector if they opted out of or reduced their private health insurance cover.

“This year approximately 10,000 private patients will be treated at Noosa Hospital,” he said.

“A notional 10% reduction in private health insurance rates would mean 20 patients a week seeking treatment in the public sector who might otherwise have been treated here as a private patient.”

Mr Steele said this would be at a time when other formerly insured patients from Nambour, Gympie and Buderim would be attempting to access the public health system, thus increasing pressure on waiting times for Sunshine Coast patients.

“Noosa patients presenting to our emergency department could increasingly need to be transferred to Nambour general,” Mr Steele said.

“Currently emergency department patients with private insurance can be, and are, admitted as private patients to the hospital,” he said.

“A reduction in private health cover in the area and of our many interstate travellers would put more strain on Noosa public beds, increasing the need for transfer.”

“This might have a resource impact for QAS as well as colleagues at Nambour general,” he said.

Mr Steele said the “mixed economy” of public and private work at 92-bed Noosa hospital enabled many visiting medical officers to supplement their public earnings with a private income.

“There is a potential threat that some (officers) might stop coming to Noosa if they find it isn’t financially viable,” he said.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon this week reportedly rejected Deloitte’s report by claiming the private health opt-out findings were based on “general questions being asked of 2000 people via a telephone poll without all the relevant financial information”.

“People don’t make decisions about budgets during phone polls; they make them in a considered fashion with all the facts available,” Ms Roxon said.

“This might have a resource impact for QAS...”


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