However, it seems both major parties agree that private health insurance is a Good Thing. Given that's the assumption they're working from, rather than fighting over how many people will drop out as a result of increased costs, why not consider options for offsetting the increased costs due to not subsidising rich people? One way to do this is to look at the costs of various kinds of medical care. An obvious candidate for this is obstetric care. I couldn't find any data on obstetric fees, but I had 3 children over 5 years and my fees tripled in that time. At the same time, many private OBs ceased practising in less affluent parts of Sydney. Newspaper reports and my OB suggested this enormous increase was due to insurance. If insurance has become that impossibly expensive, it's time for the Government to look at the causes. Without turning this into an epic, I'd suggest universal disability insurance would go a long way to addressing this problem. OB insurance is heavily affected by tragic outcomes during birth. If something goes horribly wrong, even if the OB wasn't actually negligent, everyone wants to see the family looked after financially. This is an expense that should be borne across the community. No doubt there are plenty of other areas of medicine where costs are artificially inflated for whatever reason. Don't misinterpret me here, I am not suggesting that health insurance companies should be working to reduce these costs. I believe the US has adequately demonstrated how disastrous that path is. But I do think this is what we have a Health Minister for.
All of that, though, is fraught and messy. It's not hard to imagine an inquiry into some area of health costs turning into a witch hunt and just making the whole situation worse, and I repeat, I don't want the health insurance companies themselves having opinions on how much health care should cost. So what's an insurance company to do to keep these 27,000/1.6 million customers? Well, if you can't reduce your specific costs, reduce your scope. Cover less. And here it gets really easy. Ditch the woo. Despite my total disrespect for private health insurance, we have the topmost, most expensive health care in the country (or close enough to it). This is a result of inertia after inheriting it from a previous employer. Here are some things it covers:
That's a bit fuzzy, it says "Naturopathy, Western Herbalism, Homeopathy, Iridology, Nutrition, Remedial Massage, Shiatsu and Bowen Therapy". Righto. I'm not entirely sure what "Nutrition" means here, because qualified dieticians are covered elsewhere. The sum total of evidence for the efficacy of these therapies would probably fit in the box that names them. This policy allows every single person covered by the policy to spend $700 per year on them. For our family, that represents $3,500 we could rip out of our health fund for therapies that either don't work, do actual harm, or work as well as Klinger's Keep Cool sugar pills. There's also this (included in the same $700 cap)
Whilst there is evidence for the efficacy of some chiropractic and osteopathy therapies, there's a whole lot of non-evidence based therapies provided under these banners as well. If we need to reduce the cost of health care, let's cut loose the stuff that has little or no evidence to support it. I've used acupuncture, and it worked, dammit! But if I want to go kick start my body's placebo effect, I don't think the rest of the community should be subsidising it. I can pay for my own woo.
While the individual costs for these services are an awful lot smaller than an average hospital admission, for example, they tend to be used much more often. Not least because they don't actually work. I was told by a physiotherapist that the nearly all complaints require no more than 3-5 visits to resolve. How many people have you heard describing months or years of chiro, osteo or other natural therapies? This study found that the average lower back patient made 10 visits to a chiropractor. That same study shows that chiropractic services are the most expensive way to treat back pain. If we want to reduce the cost of medicine, let's stick to funding evidence based medicine.
Every time my insurance company asks me about the service I got from a provider, they also ask me how they could provide a better service generally. Every single time I tell them to stop subsidising woo. Tell your insurance company too.