Coalition's plan for improved rural access to private health cover

 

A re-elected Turnbull Coalition Government will ensure Australians in rural and remote communities get access to private health insurance cover that better reflects the health needs and challenges that come with life in the bush.

We want to ensure Australians living in regional areas receive better value for money through our private health reforms, as well as those living in our capitals cities.

We also want to ensure people in country Australia are paying for services they can actually access and will use.

As an MP representing some of Australia’s most remote and disadvantaged communities, I understand first-hand that access to health services, as well as people’s priorities, can differ significantly to those in our capital cities.

For example, the long distances often travelled for both basic and specialist health care, combined with the higher-risk nature of rural work, makes ambulance and travel costs a priority in some communities.

In regional areas there is also higher importance given to innovative and emerging technologies such as tele-health and remote monitoring, as well as access to local allied and primary health care services supported by private health insurers, such as optometrists, dentists, physiotherapists and weight management.

Someone in a rural community may also not have a choice between a local public and private hospital; therefore choice of accommodation for a local hospital stay is not as high a priority as it may be in a capital city.

These issues were reflected in the 40,000 responses to our consumer survey, in which about three-quarters of Australians living in rural or remote communities believed they were not receiving value for money from their private health insurance, compared to 68 per cent in our major cities.

This is a worry when combined with the fact the cost of private health insurance was considered the biggest concern for Australians living in rural and remote communities.

Labor and the Greens’ $4 billion cuts to the value of the private health insurance rebate would certainly have contributed to increasing this cost barrier, and Bill Shorten’s refusal to rule out taking more money away from consumers risks irreversible damage to access private health insurance in country areas.

That’s why a re-elected Turnbull Government will work with rural health and consumer groups, private health insurers and other key stakeholders to develop a private health insurance product designed specifically for Australians living in rural and remote areas.

Our Private Health Ministerial Advisory Committee will be tasked with developing this product as a priority, together with other reforms that will give consumers better access to standard levels of coverage, easier to understand policies and fine print, standardised medical procedure definitions and single medical bills.

A re-elected Turnbull Coalition Government will also protect the current community rating system to ensure rural and remote Australians aren’t disadvantaged.

Real quotes from Australians living in rural and remote communities:

  • “People living in rural areas have less access to private hospitals unless they travel to capital cities.”
  • “Living in the rural area to access the Dr of choice you have to travel away from family to get the care required, yet we pay the same as someone in a major metropolitan area.
  • “Living in a rural area, there is not an opportunity to use it as there is in the city.”

Source: Australian Government’s consumer survey of private health insurance.