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Giving NDIS to Medibank a risk: AMA

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The AMA and disability groups have raised concerns about suggestions that health insurer Medibank Private be given responsibility for administering the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

According to The Australian Financial Review, Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann are considering tendering out some administrative functions of the National Disability Insurance Agency as a way to cut down on duplication of bureaucratic operations, and have suggested they could be taken over by Medibank Private.

But AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton said the health fund’s recent record did not inspire confidence in its ability to administer such an important scheme.

Dr Hambleton said the performance of Medibank Private’s offshoot Medibank Health Solutions in managing a $1.3 billion contract to provide health services for Australian Defence Force personnel raised significant concerns about how well it would manage the NDIS.

“We’ve had concerns with the way it was set up, and we’ve had some feedback from our members who are concerned about the way it’s running,” he told the AFR. “There were some difficulties with accessing sufficient numbers of people in various areas of the country, there were some issues with preferred providers which, according to feedback from our members, has delayed access to care in some cases.”

The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of New South Wales said any move to put management of the NDIS in the hands of Medibank Private would be a “huge loss” for people with disabilities.

“People with disabilities and their carers have been waiting for far too long for adequate support services, and to be told that the overarching scheme may be placed within a health insurer that’s to be sold off is abhorrent,” the Association’s Senior Policy Officer, Amelia Christie, said.  “If the Abbott Government is adverse [sic] to multiple bureaucratic bodies, why would they not place the responsibility for the NDIS within Medicare rather than with a body that they intend to privatise?”  

But Assistant Minister for Social Services, Senator Mitch Fifield, said there was no cause for alarm.

Senator Fifield said “there may be some functions of the National Disability Insurance Agency that…could be contracted out through a competitive process. Businesses and not-for-profits could tender for such business, if it was offered”.

“New service providers are emerging, and it may well be that Medibank Private chooses to offer services in this market. That is a matter for them,” he said.

Shadow Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin, said the Government’s comments showed people with a disability were right to be very concerned.

Ms Macklin said it was extremely important that the NDIS was operated by an independent authority, in order to make sure it was administered in the interest of people with a disability.

She called on the Government to immediately confirm that it would not “tamper” with the NDIS.

Adrian Rollins