The Australian Dental Association played a pivotal role in a motion tabled last week to establish a Senate inquiry into private health insurance.
After close, behind-the-scenes collaboration over an 18-month period between the ADA (especially the ADA South Australia branch) and the Nick Xenophon Team, it was agreed the inquiry should cover a broad range of issues within its terms of reference—many of particular concern to the ADA.
The Senate inquiry has attracted the support of Labor, the Greens and the crossbench, and is expected to bring pressure to bear on the government to address major systemic issues in the private health insurance industry.
ADA President Dr Hugo Sachs welcomed the proposed inquiry, citing its potential to shine a harsh spotlight on a range of deleterious private health insurance practices.
“Not only are private health insurers failing to adequately increase their rebates for general treatment services, they use discriminatory rebates that make it harder for consumers to see the healthcare provider of their choice—interfering with their continuity of care,” he said.
“Common in private health insurance, discriminatory rebates offer higher rebates for the policy holder who sees a health provider who is contracted to that private health insurer; yet the other policy holder who pays the same premium for the same policy receives a lower rebate if they choose to maintain a relationship with their existing un-contracted healthcare provider.
“Discriminatory rebates make one policy holder have a higher out of pocket cost and effectively subsidise the other policy holder’s costs of seeing the practitioner who is contracted to the insurer. This also has the effect over time of driving out small business independent practices. It’s a triple whammy.”