Publication Date 01/09/2009         Volume. 1 No. 4   
Information to Pharmacists


From the desk of the editor

Welcome to the September 2009 issue of i2P E-Magazine - Information to Pharmacists.
In this edition I would point you to the Pharmedia link where trends in US pharmacy consumers are noted and matched to the Australian counterpart.
There is a strong similarity between the two countries.
In this commentary a direction and a strategy is suggested.
Please feel free to add your comment in the panel provided at the foot of this commentary, as it is a very important issue for Australian pharmacists.

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Health Insurers to feel the cold winds of change

Staff Writer

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Editing and Researching news and stories about global and local Pharmacy Issues

At last there is a move to sort out the high costs and inefficiencies inherent in Australia's private health insurance system.
Not that the private funds are totally to blame.
Government policies built around the Medicare levy (an extra tax, unless you take out private insurance), the limited range of benefits payable by private funds (because of government controls) has led to a high level of dissatisfaction by people privately insured.
It appears that an entity titled Medicare Select, may be utilised to negotiate and "bulk buy" health services, including those of the state-owned hospitals.
Private health funds, including Medibank Private, would be involved in managing the services on behalf of their members.
This new system has a real potential to reduce major health costs.

Medibank backs system shake-up

Mark Metherell

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A ''PATIENT choice'' health scheme in which consumers would join government-financed health funds of their choosing has drawn support from Government-owned fund Medibank Private.

Medicare Select, the plan proposed by the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission, would require the most radical shake-up of the Australia health system undertaken.

The change would replace state government domination of public hospitals with a federally financed scheme in which competing mega health funds would contract with hospitals, doctors and other health services to provide care for their members.

Medibank chairman Paul McClintock said the fund was ''very interested'' in Medicare Select, which he said would enable consumers to pick a fund that would ''buy all your health services for you''.

George Savvides, the managing director of Medibank Private, Australia's biggest fund, said his fund was ''seriously investigating'' a consumer-driven system that offered patients more choice and that was likely to rein in health costs.

Mr Savvides has visited the Netherlands to check a social-insurance health scheme established there three years ago that had won widespread consumer acceptance and had been credited with cutting rises in health costs to about 4 per cent annually, about half Australia's rate.

Australia should consider a scheme that provided choice and was much more focused on patient care, if it wanted to maintain an affordable health system. This was particularly so ''in light of the ageing population and the dramatic increases in chronic disease'', Mr Savvides said.

''We believe we should be open to embracing this challenge, in particular Medicare Select.''

Bupa Australia managing director Richard Bowden said his fund was also looking at Medicare Select's offering of a more connected consumer-centred system to combat the rising demands of chronic disease.

The health reform commission in its final report said that Medicare Select would give people choice in selecting a health and hospitals plan.

The Federal Government would finance the health funds on a risk-adjusted basis for each of its members, taking account of each individual's age and health, so that those suffering or at risk of chronic disease would be allocated higher subsidies than the young and healthy.

The health funds would negotiate the with public and private hospitals, which would compete on efficiency and quality to gain business. This would be a spur to innovation to ''improve patient care and service delivery'', the commission said.

Health insurance expert Just Stoelwinder, who spent five months studying the Dutch scheme, said while Medicare Select represented a huge change, he believed it could work in Australia, given the similarities in the health culture of the two countries, including acceptance of universal access to health services.

The change would mean ''shifting from a government-run system to a consumer-choice system'', said Professor Stoelwinder, who heads health services management studies at Monash University.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon said Medicare Select was an idea the Government was hoping to hear community reaction to. ''Would we be prepared to accept competing insurers covering all of our health entitlements?''

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