News National Scheme favours private patients

Scheme favours private patients

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A new scheme giving priority treatment to Medibank private health members risks creating a two-tier health system, a Senate inquiry has heard.

The scheme which is being piloted by Medibank in Queensland gives customers after hours service, free consultations and same-day appointments.

Federal Greens spokesman Richard Di Natale has introduced an amendment to the Private Health Insurance Act, banning private health insurers from making arrangements with medical clinics to give their members preferential treatment.

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Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler told The Age the scheme could disadvantage those without private health insurance.

“We know that demand for general practices is quite high and there will be many places where private health gets priority,” said Mr Owler.

“Those without private health insurance won’t be able to get in to see their general practitioner or will have to wait much longer.”

Dr Di Natale warned that health insurance premiums may skyrocket as other providers would consider similar schemes.

“It’s impossible to foresee a situation where one company provides their members with a product that other private health insurers don’t attempt to match in some way,” Dr Di Natale said.

“There’s the equity issue, but the second thing is people’s premiums are going to skyrocket.”

Medibank defended the scheme, saying it would help keep members out of hospital.

“If Medibank can support GPs to assist its members to remain healthy and out of hospital, not only do members benefit but it also makes sense to Medibank from a business perspective,” the company said.

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