Sebastian Rosenberg | Stop Tinkering, Start Reforming

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The government has once again failed to provide real reform in the health care debate, with those suffering a mental illness continually being disadvantaged. Sebastian Rosenberg, a senior lecturer at the Brain and Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney, outlines how an array of economists, including CPD’s John Menadue & Ian McAuley discussion paper Private health insurance: High in cost and low in equity, have strongly criticised the government’s subsidising of private health insurance.

The policy not only shows that the government is more than prepared to ignore the broad spectrum of advice from experts, but it further stimulates the creation of two tiers of health care in this country. The story is all too familiar, with the PHI subsidies being described in 1998 as “the worst case of public policy ever seen in this parliament” by then Labor member for Jagajaga, Jenny Macklin.

The extent to which Macklin’s analysis was sound in 1998 can be seen in the miraculous unanimity of the public commentary in relation to the most recent agreement to means-test the private health insurance rebate.

At the risk of oversimplifying positions, for your traditional leftie analysis of private health insurance and the changes you could consider the paper prepared by John Menadue and Ian McAuley from the Centre for Policy Development in January 2012. They systematically debunk all the key points raised by proponents of the rebate, demonstrating that the policy is a huge budget burden, has massive administrative costs, has not eased the pressure on public hospitals, has not improved choice and does not reward self-reliance.

Rather than simply focus on means-testing, they advocate that the whole policy is a colossal waste of public resources demanding fundamental revision.

Perhaps a more centrist position might be found in Ross Gittins’s recent piece (The Sydney Morning Herald, 8th February) but alas no. He too explains that subsidising private health insurance doesn’t only advantage the well-off but also contributes to making the health system more expensive overall.

Read the full article in the SMH here

Want some more information on the health care debate? Read John Menadue and Ian McAuley’s discussion paper Private health insurance: High in cost and low in equity

Change can happen faster than you think – help us seize the moment and point to the alternatives. Add your voice to ours!

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