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AMA slams Bupa hospital change


Doctors are worried recent changes by Bupa will leave hospital patients with higher out-of-pocket costs.

Revealing its latest annual report card on private health insurance, the Australian Medical Association singled out the insurer’s new gap cover arrangements.

The insurer would now only be providing maximum benefits for patients in hospitals with Bupa contracts, AMA President Michael Gannon (pictured) said on Monday.

The association is worried the changes mean patients will not only need to confirm their preferred doctor has a gap arrangement with Bupa, but also if that doctor has admitting rights with a hospital Bupa has a contract with.

“Public confidence in private health insurance is already at an all-time low,” Dr Gannon told reporters in Perth on Monday.

“These changes will further devalue policies, which are a major financial burden for Australian families, and will place dangerous pressure on the already stressed public hospital system.”

Bupa clarified its changes on March 7, revealing customers will still be able to use the Medical Gap Scheme in public hospitals if they pre-book their treatment as a private patient at least two working days before they’re admitted.

In the annual report card, Dr Gannon also reiterated his association’s call for an end to so-called junk policies and said Australians should carefully consider what cover they need.

“We know there are more than 20,000 policy variations,” he said.

The Turnbull government has announced reforms to insurance policies and how they are classified – into gold, silver, bronze and basic categories.

But the association says it’s important the changes are more than rebadging with a new label.

It also warns that without affordability being addressed, insurance membership rates will continue to fall and the viability of the entire health system will be threatened.

From April 1, premiums will increase by an average 3.95 per cent.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has insisted it’s the lowest approved rise in 17 years.

AMA awards: nominations are open

Do you have a colleague who has done truly exceptional work in the medical community? If so, you may want to see their contribution is recognised by nominating them for a prestigious AMA Public Health Award.

These honours provide well-deserved recognition for the work doctors and health groups do to improve our healthcare and public health.

This year, the AMA is calling for nominations for five awards:

  • AMA Excellence in Healthcare Award
  • Woman in Medicine Award
  • Women’s Health Award
  • Men’s Health Award
  • Youth Health Award

You can access full descriptions of selection criteria here; nominations will remain open until Wednesday, 19th April.

Among last year’s recipients was Associate Professor Diana Egerton-Warburton, who is Director of Emergency Research and Innovation at Monash Medical Centre Emergency Department. She was honoured with the Woman in Medicine Award for her exceptional contribution to emergency medicine and her passion for public health.

Also honoured in 2016 were Associate Professor John Boffa and Ms Donna Ah Chee, whose contributions to improving early childhood outcomes for Aboriginal children were recognised with the AMA Excellence in Healthcare Award.

Nominations, including all required documentation, should be submitted to awards@ama.com.au.