Greens release balance of power plan to abolish private health insurance rebate, blitz waiting lists post-covid, and deliver 50/50 funding growth for Public Hospitals
In a speech at the launch of the General Practice: Health of the Nation report by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Greens Leader Adam Bandt has urged a one-off blitz starting in 2022 to clear urgent public hospital surgery lists that have been under pressure during COVID, as well as throwing the Greens’ weight behind Premiers’ recent calls for a fairer Federal-State split for hospitals funding to boost public hospital resources.
Mr Bandt will say the $11b boost to public health would be more than covered by abolishing the Private Health Insurance rebate, returning $59.4b to the public health system over the decade, the balance of which would be spent on other public health measures like getting mental and dental health into Medicare.
The policy also includes the creation of a specialist funding agency to ensure there is a 50/50 split in growth of hospital funding and to end cost shifting and blame between federal and state governments.
Mr Bandt will say the Greens will pursue these policies in balance of power after the next election, marking the first intervention by the Greens into the public hospital funding debate since Mr Bandt became Leader.
Polls and history suggest a likely outcome of the next election is a minority parliament, where the Greens will kick the Liberals out and push the next government to rein in handouts to billionaire corporations and spend the money on public health instead.
The figures are revealed in new Parliamentary Budget Office costings released by the Greens.
Greens Leader, Adam Bandt in the speech will say:
There is a general rule in public policy to tax more of something you don’t want and fund more of what you do. But in our health system we have it all backwards.
We first started subsidising private health insurance under John Howard’s Prime Ministership. Still no one wanted to use it, so they started taxing people for not having it.
This has forced people to take out junk policies to avoid paying the Medicare surcharge. This is effectively a tax diverted away from the public good to go straight to the bottom line of private health corporations - who offer nothing in their product.
But the only thing rising faster than the premiums are the policy exclusions, so even today, people really don’t want to take out private health insurance.
But the Parliament keeps throwing good money after bad, bending over backwards to change the rules and allow premium increases and public handouts to keep these big corporations profitable.
Each year, the public hands $6.7 billion to the private health sector, where 4 big corporations control 70% of the market and make large profits off the back of public largesse.
To keep the $6.7b a year flowing, a small amount of that money flows back to the coffers of the Liberal and Labor Parties, with $2.73m in political donations being made since 2012.
We have fallen a long way from when Labor health spokesperson Jenny Macklin rightly called it “the worst example of public policy ever seen in this Parliament”, and now both the government and opposition are captured by the industry.
But the Greens are not.
There are better ways of spending $7b a year than giving handouts to big corporations to put up the prices of a product people increasingly don’t want to buy.
The Greens plan is simple. We want to stop giving handouts to the billionaire corporations in the private health industry, and put that money back into the public health system.
The State Premiers have been pushing to make 50/50 Commonwealth/State hospital funding split permanent, beyond this pandemic. We’ve had a policy costed by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office as to what a 50/50 split in the growth of hospital funding would cost and it would require a boost in hospital funding of $8 billion over the next decade.
Once the COVID-pressures on our hospital system starts to ease, then with targeted, one-off funding of $875 million to the States, we can get to work on clearing the built up backlog of people on waiting lists, prioritising those categories of clinical urgency.
In balance of power, the Greens will push to make healthcare more accessible, slash out of pocket costs, wipe out waiting lists, build up staffing levels and ensure the public health system is there for everyone when they need it.
According to the Parliamentary Budget Office, even after removing the taxes that the Medicare surcharge raises, cancelling these corporate handouts will free up $59 billion over the decade.
We can use this money to fund GPs and provide the security your report demands, fund chronic health management, fund prevention, fund regional health, make telehealth permanent and make mental health care completely free through Medicare.
We can do all this as well as lock in the 50/50 funding growth model and clear public waiting lists when the crisis has subsided. As you can see, $59 billion buys a lot of public services.
Australian Greens Health Spokesperson, Senator Jordon Steele-John:
“The pandemic has shone a light onto, and deepened the cracks in our healthcare system, caused by funding cuts and privatisation.
“In the balance of power, the Greens will push the next government to make billionaires and big corporations pay their fair share of tax, so we can get dental and mental health into Medicare and everyone can get the healthcare they need, when they need it.
“Private health insurance is making a few corporations very rich, and creating a two tiered, Americanised system - that’s a disaster.
“Healthcare shouldn’t be based on who can pay, it should be based on who needs what.
“Our health system is overwhelmed and waiting lists are overflowing. We must urgently invest in our public hospitals and ensure our public healthcare system is available to people when they need it.
“Medical professionals, along with state and territory governments are calling on the Federal Government to commit to a 50 / 50 funding growth split for public hospitals. The Australian Greens are committed to meeting this agreement.
“Healthcare is fundamental to an equitable society, it’s a human right.”
The Big 4 corporations that control 70% of the subsidised private health market have made huge profits:
- MediBank was privatised by the Abbott government, with two U.S hedge funds as its major shareholders. They made $441 million in profits last year.
- NIB is also booming with after tax profits increasing by 169% since 2012
- UK Multinational BUPA is swimming in so much cash they pay their 8 board members $13 million a year.
- HCF is a private company, with a few controlled trusts for good measure and their profits have almost doubled in the past year - during a pandemic.