Private health insurance is a rip-off. Public health needs the $3 billion government subsidy that is propping up the private health insurance industry. And a truck-load more. People don't need a 30 per cent rebate on their private health insurance premiums. They need not to feel terrified into having to pay the premiums in the first place.
My solution? Make it mandatory that politicians and their families are forced to use only the public health system.
Government subsidy of private health is theft from the public health system. It's a disgrace. Where is the choice if you are on benefits or a low income and you can't afford private health insurance? "Chicken or beef, sir?" That's a choice.
Having private health insurance is not a choice. The poor, the old and the vulnerable wait in pain. The rest get served first. Why is pain and loss of quality of life not as important if the person is old, poor or on benefits? It's discrimination. It's an economically adjusted pain scale. "They're doing it tough so a bit more pain won't hurt 'em."
Last week I found myself on the Medi-Go-Round. It was one of those "it's probably nothing, it's probably nothing, it's probably nothing, maybe it's cancer" scenarios. After six months of niggles that had grown to excruciating discomfort, I was off to the doctor. There was talk of having something removed. I don't have private health insurance. I've never had it. I'm politically and philosophically opposed to it.
But I also have the confidence of my convictions to tell you that if I was facing six months on a waiting list or six months of misery, I was happy to pay out of my own pocket and jump the queue. It's not fair that I can do that. I want my taxes used efficiently, or to pay more tax so that we can all be treated in order of need and not of wealth.
Start talking to people about why they have private health insurance and you'll realise that hospital waiting lists are the best advertisement and incentive for private health insurance there is. The Government has no interest in reducing the waiting lists because the waiting lists are saving them money that they can spend on important things, such as the parliamentary super fund, $9000-a-roll silk wallpaper for the Prime Minister's plane and more defence toys and war bling.
People will tell you that they have private health insurance because they were sucked in by the fear of waiting lists, getting into "the breeding zone", the 2000 run-for-cover campaign or simply "because my accountant told me to". None of them will tell you that they think it's value for money. Most of them are opposed to it. Necessary evil. They will tell you that they don't notice the payments and any rebate feels like a bonus.
If negative optimism is "it won't happen to me" then positive optimism must be "maybe it will". Once people sign up to private health insurance they are reluctant to pull out because: "What if I get hit by a car tomorrow?" And for the people who convince themselves that having private health insurance is taking pressure off public hospitals, it's not. It's making the situation worse.
It's clever how the Government is taking away with one hand and giving back with the other. "Oh look at what a mess the public health system is in! Whoever did that should be smacked. And look at the Medicare levy surcharge. Outrageous! Here's a rebate on your private health insurance and a lovely safety net. What did you say? A safety net will only encourage the increase of fees and not benefit the public in any way shape or form? Don't be so cynical. We're your Government and we love you." It's all smoke and mirrors, ladies and gentlemen.
I pay the Medicare levy surcharge and I want it to go to Medicare. At present, it doesn't. It probably goes to pay for John Howard's nose-hair clippers, or some more taxpayer-funded government advertising.
Tomorrow Michael Moore's documentary on the US health system, Sicko, opens in cinemas around Australia. When you watch this movie think of it as "here's one we prepared earlier".
There is a proverb: "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in." With free high-quality universal health care there will be shade for our children. With the increase of private health there will be no shade because there will be no trees.
I love a good rant. I feel better now.
P.S. One day I will write something asking why dental is not covered under Medicare. Why is the mouth separate?
Wednesday, February 16, 2011