No efficiency in the Australian health system

| September 24, 2015

A third of treatments listed on the Medicare Benefits Schedule is potentially wasteful or outdated. Neil Batt says we need to provide fairness in our health system and empower the consumer.

A report released by Bruce Robinson, the Dean of the Sydney Medical School and the man chosen to lead the Medicare Review, states that a quarter of the services listed on the medical Benefits Schedule do not appear to be supported by evidence while about 30 per cent of all healthcare treatments would be of little benefit to patients.

It is clearly evident that the health system in Australia is wasteful.

It is nonsense to listen to the proposal to increase the GST in order to provide for the increased cost of health when it is clear that sufficient money is already being provided but is being wasted.

And this being true the question has to be asked of what value is the existence of the enormous health bureaucracy and the whole of the academic and professional health organisations when they have failed to discover this waste. There is a Productivity Commission but it is blind in this area of inefficiency and waste. As for the expensive Commonwealth Health Department, it should be simply abolished.

There is no driver of efficiency in the whole health system. If we were to start from a commitment to simple efficiency, there would be no State Health Departments; they add nothing. It is also time to explore the privatisation or at least corporatisation of the presently state owned and state run public hospitals. They currently exist for the providers not the customer.

It is clearly important to provide fairness in the health system. The Bennett Report offered an alternative based on the Dutch system of universal health insurance with the rich being penalised and the poor being subsidised into the system. It may not be the answer but it is a comment on the rigid nature of the Australian health system that it is not even being debated.

The advantage it offers is that the customer is given purchasing power and autonomy. It is surely not heresy to contemplate the usefulness of the market operating in health, providing there are safeguards it has been shown to have worked in other areas of economic life. It would be worthwhile to explore the possibility of empowering the consumer and putting the consumer at the centre of the health system.