By Ross Walker

The recent rise in private health insurance of around 6% on average, depending on your fund, will come into effect on the rather ironic date of April 1st. Are we being taken for fools or is this increase reasonable?  Well, from a purely objective position, private health insurance companies are multinational businesses in the business of making money. The healthcare sector is very expensive with medical fees, total costs of investigation equipment and therapeutic devices, not to mention the vast majority of ancillary services within and outside the hospital sector.

Personally, I believe the system should have a radical overhaul because our so-called universal healthcare system Medicare, is unaffordable and a major contributor to our increasing budget deficit.

For some bizarre reason, the public believes the government should be sponsoring their health and disease.

It is my opinion that the lower 20% of earners, including those on significant social welfare should receive free, non discounted healthcare and after that cut-off mark, everyone pays a tiered amount linked to income including co-payments for doctor’s visits.  Although the co-payment for general practitioners under my system would only be the cost of two cups of coffee (and not include the economic disadvantaged), it would help prevent frivolous visits to the doctor, hopefully assisting in  turning around this expensive health juggernaut.

The main problem I have with our current system is that it is unfair to those who can least afford it, with increasing waiting lists for elective procedures and increasing waiting times in public hospital accident and emergencies for two basic reasons. Firstly, there are far too many people on the planet and there is just not the infrastructure to support the world’s population – but that is a matter for discussion at another time. And secondly, members of the Australian public who could afford the cheaper option I am proposing, for example if you were just above the 20% cut off of earners you would only be paying $10 per week for private insurance compared with the wealthy whose bill may be approaching somewhere between the 50,000 – 100,000 dollar mark. But having 80% of the population paying some form of private insurance would free up the public system preventing a more disadvantaged person waiting two years in pain for a hip replacement or spinal surgery or someone going slowly blind with cataracts on the waiting list for the waiting list (yes, there is a waiting list now for the waiting list) to see an ophthalmic surgeon (if by that stage they can see anything at all).

In a modern, democratic world, all I am suggesting is a fairer, user pays (for those who can afford something) that ensures each citizen can avail themselves of good quality healthcare.

A rise in private health insurance premiums is not the answer. The only answer is a total overhaul of a flawed system. This includes a review of the use and abuse of the system both by the medical profession and the public (of which the Choosing Wisely Program is a very good start). There should also be a complete turnaround in how our healthcare system is funded.

Until some brave politician with some long-term thinking now (and I am yet to see anyone in this country who fits this bill) starts talking this language, we will continue to see the healthcare system being a major drain on our economy.

I often quote Albert Einstein when he said - ‘ There is no more certain sign of insanity than to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.’