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Challenges facing healthcare in Australia sit firmly with health insurers and government

New consumer research shows Australians have singled out private health insurers and governments to lead the turnaround of the country’s troubled national health and care system by tackling ever-increasing costs while maintaining people’s quality of life.

Bupa Managing Director of Health Insurance, Dr Dwayne Crombie, said research showed Australians expected private health insurers to play the biggest role in combatting the nation’s rising healthcare costs, which is identified as the single most important factor for improving the health and care system.

“This research clearly identifies that the biggest concern for Australians is the rising cost of healthcare, not for themselves, but for the nation as a whole,” Dr Crombie said in an address to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) in Perth today.

“For too long now, Australia has been at the mercy of rocketing health costs. There has been a lack of accountability from across the health sector when addressing these costs and what that means for the future of our country.

“Australians are now turning to their private health funds to really lead the charge around cost innovation on their behalf.

“That means bringing together governments, hospitals, doctors and our networks to tackle rising healthcare costs which are unsustainable. And it means addressing the pricing practices of some medical specialties which can leave insured Australians with huge out of pocket expenses.

“In two days’ time, most Australians will experience higher private health insurance bills driven by extreme waste and inefficiency in our health system and we’re determined to play a leading role in helping fix that. The affordability tipping point has now been reached.”

He said while addressing cost is critical to the future of healthcare, the research showed it needed to be balanced by Australians not wanting cost to impact their quality of life or life expectancy.

“Clearly, improving quality of life should be the ultimate goal of any innovation to the healthcare system in Australia,” Dr Crombie said.

“The challenge this research presents to the sector and private health insurers in particular is how are we going to achieve greater collaboration to meet the expectations of a public equally concerned about improved quality of life, increased life expectancy and reduced cost?”

Bupa conducted the research with the aim of better understanding community perceptions around the roles of organisations and individuals in transforming the national healthcare system. A total of 1535 respondents answered a range of questions focused on the key areas of innovation: cost, efficiency, technology, education and information.

The results reveal the challenge faced by the health and care sector in general and specifically by private health insurers in balancing the priorities of consumers.

The research showed:

  • Consumers clearly rank cost as the biggest innovation challenge facing the healthcare system in Australia. Finding ways to help reduce the cost of healthcare to the nation is seen as the biggest priority for the future;
  • The emphasis on cost as an innovation driver becomes less acute among respondents aged 55 and above. In this demographic, efficiency becomes increasingly important;
  • Consumers place high importance on specific initiatives that provide more transparency around private health insurance and better access to information about treatment options;
  • Private health insurers and both Federal and State Governments are expected to play the biggest roles in innovation to transform health and care in Australia;
  • Private health insurers are also expected to work with GPs more closely, specialists and patients to ensure transparency of information to enable patients to make more informed decisions about their insurance, treatments and methods of prevention;
  • Consumers are less interested in technology initiatives except for the possibility of making health records available electronically to doctors and specialists;
  • Improving quality of life is seen as the main priority for a majority of consumers and they do not want this compromised by issues of cost. While cost-led innovation is identified as most important to the future of the healthcare system, respondents do not want to see the cost of such innovation compromise their quality of life or life expectancy.

“In order to create a strong and sustainable healthcare system for all Australians, innovation is required from the community, government, insurers, and health and care providers alike,” Dr Crombie said.

“Overall, the survey results reveal that the benefits for the community rest in strengthening innovation between private health insurers, government, health and care providers, and ultimately patients. The message is clear; we all have a role to play. It's how we collaborate that is the major challenge here.”

About the research

The future series is a regular survey looking at how Australians view a different aspect of the healthcare system in Australia at that point in time and how they would like to see it evolve in the future. As the largest privately-owned health insurance provider in Australia, supporting more than 4.7 million customers, Bupa has an important role in shaping the future of health and care across the country.

With this research, we aim to better understand the priorities of consumers and allow them to help inform the path forward. The first of the surveys looks at affordability, innovation and transformation in healthcare in Australia and the role of private health insurers from the perspective of the consumer.

Download a copy of the Bupa Future Survey Series 2017: The Future of Private Health Insurance.

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For media enquiries or further information please contact:

Jonathan Rose
Bupa Corporate Affairs
Phone: +61 447 028 913

About Bupa
Bupa is a diverse health and care group which has been committed to a purpose of longer, healthier, happier lives for close to 70 years.
In Australia and New Zealand, Bupa supports more than 6 million customers through a broad range of health and care services including health insurance, aged care, rehabilitation, dental, optical, medical, hearing and medical visa services.
Employing more than 18,000 people, we believe that we can make a real difference to the lives of Australians and New Zealanders through our values, purpose and the way that we deliver personalised care.
With no shareholders, we are able to reinvest our profits into improving the quality of health and care services. Since 2002 we have reinvested approximately $6bn in Australia and New Zealand, while the Bupa Health Foundation has invested over $26 million to support more than 100 health and care projects.