Coalition pledges to stand by Medicare ‘forever’

NIB boss Mark Fitzgibbon has urged the government to back compulsory private health insurance over Medicare.

NIB boss Mark Fitzgibbon has urged the government to back compulsory private health insurance over Medicare. Photo: AAP

Health Minister Greg Hunt has rejected a call from the head of one of Australia’s largest private health insurers to scrap Medicare in favour of compulsory private health insurance.

Mr Hunt said on Tuesday that the Coalition would never dump Medicare.

His swift rejection of the idea came after NIB managing director Mark Fitzgibbon used an opinion piece in the Australian Financial Review on Tuesday to suggest the government should dump universal healthcare.

Mr Fitzgibbon said the government should pay the health insurance premiums of those who can’t afford them, achieving a more affordable healthcare system as the nation’s population ages.

“It’s hardly a radical proposition when you consider Medicare is itself a compulsory ‘social insurance’ system. It’s not as if you or I can opt out of Medicare,” Mr Fitzgibbon wrote on Tuesday.

“And no different to the approach taken by many ‘left-leaning’ European governments that don’t feel it necessary to actually run a health insurance system to ensure cost-effectiveness and fairness.”

Mr Fitzgibbon’s call comes just a week after the Grattan Institute warned private health insurance faced a “death spiral” if the trend of young, healthy people dropping their cover continued.

The “unhappy mix” of partially public and partially privatised health care in Australia has led to a system “riddled with inconsistencies and perverse incentives”, Grattan Institute researchers said.

Mr Hunt alluded to the proposition, saying there is no such change in the works.

“I did see one comment today questioning Medicare, and I have to say clearly and categorically that we reject that proposition: clearly, categorically and absolutely,” he said in Canberra.

“We are committed to it (Medicare) for life, forever.

“But equally, we’re committed to private health insurance. Both of those elements are part of the model that best serves Australians.”

-with AAP

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