Private health insurers are gearing up to enter the general practice market. But it appears their plan is a copy of the dreaded US-style ‘managed care’ approach.
It’s best to keep health funds at arm’s length or else they will decide what care can, and can’t be given – instead of the patient and the healthcare provider. Therefore, I suggest that six conditions must be met before private health insurers can engage with general practice:
#1: Universal access
Every Australian should have equal access to a GP, independent of insurance status.
#2: Freedom of choice
People should have the option to choose their GP and private specialists; this cannot be dictated by health funds. Patients together with their doctors are best at deciding which tests and treatments are appropriate, not third parties like insurance companies.
Patients should always be given the option to choose and change health funds and insurance products.
Health funds must provide a straightforward package covering GP and/or basic private hospital care – as well as more comprehensive packages. Exclusions should be kept to a minimum. Health funds should make patients aware of exclusions and any other limitations before they buy a product.
To assist consumers choosing the best health insurance that suits their circumstances, an independent Government website should monitor, compare and publicise all available insurance packages.
#4: Professional autonomy
GPs and practice staff need support to be able to provide good care; this also means they should not be overloaded with red-tape, reporting requirements and KPIs. For the same reason health funds should not cause delays in treatment. GPs have the right to set fees to ensure practice viability.
#5: Evidence-based care
Only proven, appropriate, and cost-effective care should be covered.
#6: Stakeholder involvement
Health consumer organisations and the medical profession need to be engaged, as this will likely lead to better outcomes.
Finally, new regulation should be put in place to safeguard compliance by all parties.