Date published: 
21 March 2018
Media type: 
General public

21 March 2018


Topics: Private health insurance; PBS

ALAN JONES: Let me say that politicians are criticised a lot and I’m not saying I haven’t had some arguments with Greg Hunt but this bloke, in my opinion, is as good as it gets.

He mightn’t provide all the answers you want but he deals fastidiously with the issues and you can’t ask any more than that. There is not a single instance where you have raised matters with me, I’ve then raised them with him and he provides a response.

And in many instances, it’s not a response that says I’m looking into it, it’s a response which actually does something. Now of course in health care he has an enormous problem confronting him.

The cost of private health insurance and the other side of that coin, what does private health insurance give you? Now if we don’t get into private health insurance of course, the bill, the public bill, the public hospital bill, is enormous. He’s right here beside me. Thank you for your time and thank you for all you do.

GREG HUNT: Pleasure Alan.

ALAN JONES: Can I just raise this issue of private health insurance because for example Diane said to me because we try to keep up with our health insurance and not burden the system that too has gone up another $43 dollars per quarter and now costs $1,177 per quarter.

How can any of us keep affording these increases when our incomes are not increasing? I got a text from Cecilee, who says my Bupa premium has risen from $121 last year to $126 but her husband recently underwent back surgery at St. Vincent's Hospital.

The invoice from the surgeon was $10,050, the refund for Medicare was $2143, the Bupa refund was nil. That's an enormous problem. I'm not suggesting you’ve got an answer and I am saying to my listeners one thing is for sure Labor don't, they want everything to be free. But what do you say to these people?

GREG HUNT: So Diane, Cecilee, everybody else who is taking out private health they're doing it for two big reasons: one, they want peace of mind, two they want choice. So their choice of hospital, their choice of doctor, and it’s a critically important part of the system.

As you say it takes pressure off the public hospitals. We've just done the biggest reforms in a decade which have delivered the lowest premium changes, the lowest price changes in 17 years. However, we have to do more. We absolutely do.

ALAN JONES: But sorry to interrupt you Greg, you've said that, this is the Health Minister Greg Hunt Federal Health Minister, your market, your premiums are going to rise and the market average is 3.9 per cent.

GREG HUNT: Correct.

ALAN JONES: I've got letter after letter after letter here saying, well, I don't know what he's talking about because my premiums going to rise by 6 per cent.

It rose by 10 per cent in 2016, it rose by 11 per cent in 2017. And so 12,000 Australians ditched their private health insurance in the December quarter. They just can't afford it.

GREG HUNT: So, there is no question that the average rise now and it will vary in individual cases is the lowest in 17 years and we've done that by taking a billion dollars out of the cost of medical devices which means we get medical devices more cheaply, we get them faster and therefore we get better outcomes for people.

We've also added a huge new range of opportunities for people to receive mental health treatment, something of immense importance. But we'll keep fighting for the lower premiums and only yesterday I spoke with the CEO of Bupa. I think that's an issue you've raised rightly.

ALAN JONES: Big issue.

GREG HUNT: About the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse not being part of …

ALAN JONES: I mean they’ll only be eligible for gap coverage if they're treated at a Bupa-contracted hospital.

GREG HUNT: Well and I have reported Bupa to what's called the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman, the tough cop on the beat.

So, my task is very clear, take the pressure off, keep delivering lower and lower changes. And as I say the lowest in 17 years, lower than any year under Labor and Shorten wants to increase prices by 16 per cent.

ALAN JONES: Don’t worry about the other mob.

GREG HUNT: That’s a disaster.

ALAN JONES: They want everything for free, don’t worry about them.

GREG HUNT: And to make sure that there are no surprises because that's completely unacceptable. That’s why yesterday I spoke with the CEO of Bupa about making sure that we get Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in contract with them.

ALAN JONES: Yeah just come back to this private health insurance. So, see, Greg, the problem is and you know this but just for the benefit of listeners. We're all paying four times if you've got private health insurance. You pay a Medicare levy and that’s no good to you because you're taking private health insurance. You're paying private health insurance premiums, they’re going up.

You're paying this monumental gap and then you are a taxpayer where you are paying money to consolidated revenue which is meant to fund the health care system.

Now I've got two people in my office here, one of whom has got private health insurance going up 5.21 per cent. The other one's going up 5.37 per cent. That's 32 and 36 per cent above this figure that you're giving us. The reality out there is it's not consistent with the 3.95 you're talking about.

GREG HUNT: Well if they have, I can guarantee this if anybody has misled the regulator they will pay a serious price but that is the average right across. I know some of the examples you gave earlier on when you talked about going from $121 to $126.Tthat’s close to within that range but across the average that, those are the national figures.

ALAN JONES: Well here’s a bloke who has five kids here, his has gone up 5.21, should it have?

GREG HUNT: Well it depends on his particular policy. But my job is to, for the whole country deliver the lowest changes that have occurred in 17 years and that’s what we’ve done.

ALAN JONES: But what do you do with that gap? I mean what do you do with the gap? When people say to me. I mean I've had all this because I know this scene backwards, I spent all last year in hospital but you get an invoice from the surgeon, $10,050. You think you've got private health insurance, I'm right, top cover, well done. The refund from Medicare $2,143, Bupa nil, gap is massive.

GREG HUNT: So one of the things that has never occurred on anyone's watch before which is occurring now precisely because of that is to build what's called a no surprises approach. So as everybody knows exactly what's in and exactly what's out. So what they’re paying for.

ALAN JONES: But why would you take private health insurance if you've got this massive gap on medical? Okay, it’s fine for hospital, so the hospital is treated like a hotel, that's paid. But the medical gap is massive. That's why people are pulling out.

GREG HUNT: And that's why we are doing something that has never occurred in Australian history before, where we get this classification. So you know exactly what you're getting. You can see on one page what's in what's out.

Will I be covered for everything? Now it is hard and I know people are scrimping and saving. You know, there are pensioners, retirees, there are lower income families, young people who are doing the right thing and our job is to make sure it's as affordable as possible and therefore to make changes that nobody's ever done. We negotiated to strip a billion dollars out of those costs.

ALAN JONES: But Greg the gap is massive. Look I think you know that but I don't know what the answer is that's why people are pulling out. They take it out then they think where are we?

GREG HUNT: I would just say this, the Shorten proposal of a 16 per cent price hike which is what they're really proposing and to strip away the rebate would basically throw virtually every pensioner and every lower income self-funded retiree out of the private health system and onto massive waiting lists.

ALAN JONES: Well there’s no doubt about it, no doubt about that. Look I just want to wait, we are always beaten by time. But if I could say to my listeners, I've been talking to the minister here about a lady called Belinda who's listening to us in Queensland and she basically was given, well she was told that she had only months to live.

She had adenocarcinoma of the bladder lining which is awful and rare, one in millions. Every specialist and oncologist, she saw five, was dumbfounded at the condition. One oncologist told us she was the only person in Australia present with that cancer.

Now, she was encouraged to take this Keytruda. It costs her $6,300 per dose but I just showed the minister here her latest e-mail from her yesterday to say that she has been- there are no cancer cells in the body.

GREG HUNT: That’s fantastic.

ALAN JONES: You are listing what, today or 1 April?

GREG HUNT: April 1, three new cancer drugs.

ALAN JONES: April 1 but is Keytruda on that?

GREG HUNT: Keytruda is already on for some areas and there is a new round for Keytruda where I’m very hopeful. And then in August we're looking at Keytruda right across the whole cancer space.

So this is one of these wonder drugs called immunotherapies. What's it mean? It energises the body to fight back and Belinda is one case in point. And today…

ALAN JONES: She said ‘Alan my biopsy results were outstanding, no living cancer cells are present. I'm in the clear until they test again in June. Keytruda is a miracle’. So you will be putting that on the PBS?

GREG HUNT: So Keytruda is already on the PBS and then there’s a new…

ALAN JONES: So she doesn’t have to pay $6,300?

GREG HUNT: For her circumstances I’d want to check very carefully. I wouldn't want to mislead you but new drugs for different types of cancer, lymphoma, types of lung cancer and for a skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma, they're coming on. They would otherwise cost people $100,000 a year, for pensioners it will be $6.40

ALAN JONES: Good on you. You're doing a hell of a job. It is a massive job. I thank you for your time. Any time you're in Sydney come and join us and we'll talk again.

GREG HUNT: Thanks mate.