Victorians living in regional areas have had very little new investment in public hospitals through the cash strapped Victorian State Budget, as many areas struggle with a migrating population and increasing hospital waiting lists.
With nearly a quarter of Victorians living in the State’s rural or regional communities, the strain on our overburdened regional public hospital system means an increasing number of patients are finding it difficult to access services when needed, which leads to poorer health outcomes.
As a result, and despite household budgets tightening, figures released by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) show a 2.2 per cent increase in private health insurance membership across Australia.
In Victoria, half the population have private health insurance, and this increased take-up, particularly in the younger demographic, reveals that people want choice, and access to health care and services when needed, avoiding joining long wait lists.
Fifty-two per cent of Victorian memberships were singles policies, with younger people seeing the value and benefits in private health insurance, easing the pressure on the public system for those who need it most.
We are also seeing private health insurers stepping up and filling the gap in the health system, with one the Members Health Fund Alliance not-for-profit health insurers, Latrobe Health Services, funding stage 1 of the $16 million redevelopment of the Maryvale Private Hospital.
The redevelopment features innovative technology and efficiencies, state-of-the-art sterilisation workflows and systems, and the latest technology for safe and contemporary care, delivering a comfortable and efficient hospital stay for Gippsland patients.
On the other side of Victoria, Mildura Health Fund, also a member of the not-for-profit alliance, contributed $22 million, of which $6 million is for the specialised Radiation/Oncology Centre known as the Mildura Health Icon Cancer Centre. This has seen a new world-class cancer centre open recently to service the area for Sunraysia cancer patients as well as those in Broken Hill, Swan Hill, and the Riverland. This radiation treatment is being provided to the benefit of the whole community, not just privately insured.
Previously, local patients have had to compromise on their radiation treatment, with many having to travel to Bendigo, Melbourne, or Adelaide to undergo treatment away from their support networks at a considerable cost.
The insurers belonging to the Members Health Fund Alliance cover more than five million Australians. The alliance is growing, with our not-for-profit and member owned ethos aligning to member first values and our funds’ desire to give back more in benefits, customer services and connection to our communities.
We put members’ health before profit, allowing them choice and control in healthcare for when they need it most, and support local communities with better health outcomes.
Matthew Koce is the CEO for Members Health Fund Alliance (Members Health), the peak industry body for 25 not-for-profit or part of a member-owned group, regional or community-based health funds. They all share the common ethic of putting their members’ health before profit. Members Health funds represent the interests of more than 5 million Australians.