Alan Cooper.
Alan Cooper. Mike Knott

Reform will ‘lead to better health outcomes’ for community

A NATIONAL Health Reform Agreement has the potential to ensure Australians who need care get it based on clinical need, not ability to pay.

This comes from the Australian Private Hospitals Association's CEO Michael Roff, who also says the reform could put an end to the practice of public hospitals "harvesting" privately insured patients for their insurance benefits.

Signed by all states and territories, the agreement includes a commitment to remove any financial benefit accruing to public hospitals for treating private patients, meaning there will be no incentive for public hospitals to actively pursue privately insured Australians.

"APHA has been advocating for this change for a long time," Mr Roff said.

"We know the practice disadvantages public patients who are pushed further down public hospital waiting lists. It undermines the principle of Medicare - that treatment in a public hospital should be based on clinical need, not the ability to pay.

"It's not right that almost 14 per cent of public hospital beds are tied up with private patients when waiting lists continue to grow, and it's not right that public patients wait twice as long to get into a public hospital compared to insured patients. Hopefully, those days are over.

"This agreement should mean improved access to care for those Australians who can't afford private health insurance and can only access the public hospital system, because privately insured people will not be pushed ahead of them in elective surgery queues as is currently the case."

Bundaberg's The Friendly Society Private Hospital is on board with the new agreement.

"This agreement frees up beds in the public system and shorten the waiting period for public patients who need the care, which leads to better health outcomes for the whole community," the Friendlies' CEO Alan Cooper said.

The NewsMail reached out to Queensland Health for comment on the impacts of the reform on the public sector, but did not receive a response.