Insurance boss calls for Medicare to be scrapped

Photo by AAP: Mark Fitsgibbom

Contributed by Ben Wilson

We’d better watch out. Now that the head of one of Australia’s private insurance companies has launched a campaign to scrap Medicare, a major campaign to do just that is underfoot. It is not one man behind it. This has been planned. A whole industry is behind this, and it has political connections.

Mark Fitzgibbon is the Managing Director of the major insurance company NIB, and well placed to be the front man in a campaign to denigrate Medicare as a government monopoly and claim that by doing away with this government interference, Australians will be better protected. how? By allowing free competition between insurance companies.

What a load of rubbish. The reality is that we are talking about an industry that thrives on building fear and using this to pressure people into paying out for overcharged policies, and helped out by government policy that prevents Medicare from covering certain areas.

Even with its weaknesses, Medicare has made possible free or near free hospital and other medical treatment for many.

The problem with the private insurance companies is that they want an even bigger gravy boat.

Government polices have opened a door by creating a two-tiered medical system. A private one with some advantages, and a public. The public system is being slowly squeezed, as funding is transferred to the private system.

Mark Fitzgibbon and others like him must be asked, how does the proposal to scrap Medicare help those who have benefited from its existence.?

The private health insurance company leader says that a “sensible policy approach would be to make private health insurance compulsory for all Australians with taxation devoted to subsidising the premiums for those who would otherwise be left behind. “

Here it is. This is really a money grab, using a combination of forcing people to pay up and pocketing lucrative government subsidies. The idea of blocking government intervention and creating a free market has suddenly gone up in a puff of smoke. This is not about championing competition to provide a better service, but a thinly disguised extortion racket.

Fitzgibbon goes on to say suggest that “high income earners would at one end of the scale pay the entire premium while on the other, those with low income fully subsidised.”  He neglects to mention two important matters.

One is that this does not match a regime where the tax burden is being shifted downwards. This will be even more true as the current government’s tax policy is implemented.

The other is that Australian pay taxes so that the government provides needed services. Health services come high on the list. Australians are now being told that they must in effect pay for the same services twice.

No secret has been made of the fact that the Morrison government and its predecessors have been wanting to get rid of the public health system for a long time. They also know that its popular. To get over this dilemma they have chipped away bit by bit. Subsidies so large that they would be the envy of any other industry have been handed out to the private insurance companies, and medical resources increasingly turned over to the private health providers.

Meanwhile, the private health sector pours some of this money back into the pockets of political friends.

Health minister Greg Hunt has put a public statement saying that the government is “never” going to scrap Medicare. Many will welcome this. But don’t you believe it. As an increasing number of Australians opt out of private coversage, the pressure is on to force a reversal of the trend.

Rather than getting rid of Medicare, Australia should be going about restoring it and making further improvements. The private health insurance industry is an unneeded parasite. This is what should be scrapped.

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