Despite the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt MP releasing the Rules that give effect to the categorisation of private health insurance procucts – basic, bronze, silver and gold – that will come into effect on 1 April 2019 a number of stakeholders have expressed concerns.
Neuromodulation Society of Australia and New Zealand (NSANZ) is concerned Australian patients will be forced to upgrade, or miss-out pain management treatments with devices, under the PHI policy changes.
“We are calling for the Government to make good on their promise, and guarantee that all existing procedures for pain management, including devices, be made available in Bronze, Silver and Gold policies,” said Dr Richard Sullivan, Pain Medicine Specialist Physician and NSANZ President, Melbourne.
“Australian strong opioid-related deaths now exceed heroin deaths by two-and-a-half-times, and estimates suggest more than a quarter of chronic pain patients are misusing prescription strong opioids.
“These numbers will increase should patients be denied access to chronic pain procedures they currently have under their existing policies,” said Dr Sullivan.
Mum-of-four, Kelly, 46, Wollongong, has been living with chronic pain for almost three decades, pain that significantly worsened following complications during surgery for a herniated disc.
“Chronic pain doesn’t just affect you, it really affects your entire family as well. I have three kids, and have just adopted my niece, and I was living on opioid patches unable to move off the couch.
“My pain management device gave me a new lease on life. I’ve gone back to work, I can run around with the kids, I can even sit and stand by myself without kids having to pull me out of the chair.
“Without my device for chronic pain, I wouldn’t have been able to work and would have lost my house.
“If my insurance didn’t cover my chronic pain device, there’s no way I would have been able to afford it. I can’t imagine what the consequences would be if other people were denied access to life-changing treatment for their chronic pain,” said Kelly.
The Medical Technology Association of Australia (MTAA) has been supportive of the Government efforts to simplify and make transparent private health insurance policies but remains concerned of the unintended consequences.
“It’s disappointing that consumers that need access to life saving and life changing medical devices will in most cases need a gold level policy to do so,” Ian Burgess CEO of the MTAA said.