Bill Shorten’s attack on private health insurance would lead to a blow out in wait times for essential surgery for patients, such as knee and hip replacements and risk hospital closures.Bill Shorten and Shadow Health Minister Catherine King have repeatedly refused to rule out scrapping the private health insurance rebate, which reduces the cost of cover, ensures that people remain in the scheme, taking pressure off the public hospital system.Removing the $6 billion a year patient rebate for health insurance will lead to a drastic price hike for pensioners and families and result in people dropping their health insurance.Modelling has now shown that if private hospital cover drops to 30% of the population waiting lists for common essential procedures like knee and hip surgery in public hospitals will blow out by 91%, even taking into account significant increased funding for public hospitals.[i]Patients would be forced to wait nine months for knee surgery and seven months for hip replacements under Labor’s plan.In March this year Labor was forced into admitting that they plan to rip the private health insurance rebate away from basic policies which are held by over 65,000 hardworking Australian families, particularly senior Australians living in regional Australia.Over recent days Bill Shorten has repeatedly refused to categorically rule out whether Labor will extend this cut to the full private health insurance rebate which will create a more than $70 billion health tax for more than 13 million Australian families and pensioners. Health advocates have warned against Labor plans to remove the rebate.“Let’s not forget that private hospitals provide 40 percent of all admissions and 60 percent of all surgery. Public hospital waiting lists would blow out if even a proportion of this workload was transferred from public to private. This would result in a two-tiered system where only the rich could avoid waiting lists by accessing private hospitals. Said Australian Private Hospitals Association CEO Michael Roff.At the National Press Club Health Debate this week Shadow Minister for Health Catherine King twice refused to rule out further extending their cuts to the entire rebate.“I'm not going to rule in or out what the Productivity Commission might recommend or might not recommend, nor what our response would actually be,” Ms King said.Labor has a track record in attacking private health insurance.Last time Labor was in Government they cut $4 billion from the private health insurance rebate and the former Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek gloated about these cuts when she said, “Every promise I made I paid for. How did I pay for it? I paid for it by targeting private health insurance” (4/4/16 Press Conference). Late last year we saw the real world effects of Labor’s proposed 2% health insurance premium cap with the Courier Mail reporting that private hospitals in Queensland “have secretly warned they will close services and turn away patients, putting more pressure on public hospitals, because of Labor’s private health insurance cap.” (23/12/18, Courier Mail).Removing the rebate would have a far worse impact, putting at risk those health services.Bill Shorten needs be honest with the Australian people and categorically rule out further cuts to the rebate or explain what the impact will be on Australian families and pensioners.When will Bill Shorten tell Australian families and pensioners that they will pay more for health insurance under his reckless plans?When will Bill Shorten tell Australian families and pensioners that they will wait longer for surgery under his reckless plan?Labor cannot be trusted to protect Australia’s healthcare system because they can’t manage money.