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AMERICANISATION OF AUSTRALIAN HEALTHCARE?

Corporate health insurer Medibank this week announced it has bought a 49% stake in East Sydney Private Hospital, sending shivers through the healthcare sector with concerns about Americanised healthcare in Australia.

Medibank says the investment is part of the corporation’s broader strategy to “support hospitals and doctors” by having patients recuperate at home, rather than in hospital.

Federal president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), – the organisation representing Australian doctors – Omar Khorshid, has raised the alarm of Medibank’s acquisition in The Australian newspaper this week.

Mr Khorshid told The Australian he was seeking a briefing with Medibank about the acquisition and how it would protect the clinical independence of the hospital.

“While I’m sure Medibank will give us a lot of assurances regarding clinical independence and the doctors and patients making decisions, the reality is once you own the hospital an insurer has vastly more control of what goes on in the hospital, whether it be who works there, how much is charged and the particular model of care and how patients are treated,” Mr Khorshid told The Australian.

Many Australians do not support the Americanisation of Australia’s healthcare system, which in the United States, can costs tens of thousands of dollars and leave the most vulnerable of society without basic healthcare.

Last year corporate health insurance lobby group, Private Healthcare Australia (PHA) called for the Government to consider to privatising healthcare in Australia by incentivising large corporations to take out health insurance for employees – as is done in the United States – taking away people’s choices about healthcare.

PHA’s Chief Executive, Rachel David, called the proposal “modest” and said it “would put the private health insurance industry within reach of young people who will benefit from healthcare services not readily available to them in the public sector”.

At the time, the Doctors Reform Society (DRF) President, Dr Tim Woodruff, slammed the proposal and questioned why private health insures wanted these changes.

Dr Woodruff said the proposal was an attempt by corporate health insurers to get more taxpayer support for themselves to make more profits.

“The majority of Australians don’t have private health insurance because it’s a bad product,” Dr Woodruff said.

It is unclear yet what effect Medibank’s hospital acquisition will have on clinician choice or patient outcomes, but many still remain concerned and questioning whether Australians can afford to import the type of americanised healthcare that has left so many American families struggling.

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