Station: 5AA
Program: Mornings
Date: 25/03/2020
Time: 10:32 AM
Compere: Leon Byner
Interviewee: Dr Rachel David, CEO, Private Healthcare Australia


LEON BYNER: And right now I want to move to private health insurance which of course is terribly important to many, and that is the Private Healthcare Australia chief executive, who we’ll talk to in a moment. She is saying that health fund members experiencing financial distress, as a result of what we are facing, need to discuss their options. So I always like to know, well, what do you mean by that?

Let’s ask that question to the CEO of Private Healthcare Australia, Dr Rachel David. Good morning Rachel.

RACHEL DAVID: Morning Leon.
LEON BYNER: What’s the answer?
RACHEL DAVID: Well look, people who are facing financial hardship as a result of the current crisis we are very keen to ensure that their first reaction is not to drop their health cover. The first thing they should do is ring their health funds, because we’ve been given authorisation to provide relief to people in that situation – either because they’ve lost their job or because their hours have been dramatically reduced.
LEON BYNER: When you say relief just be a little bit more specific as in relief as in?
RACHEL DAVID: Some funds are going to be offering deep discounts on premiums for people in that category and some funds will be waiving them altogether for a specific period of time. It will differ slightly depending on who you’re insured with but every fund will be taking steps to provide people in financial hardship with the some relief.
LEON BYNER: So if they give you a discount, you’ll still have the level of cover that you had before, will you not?
LEON BYNER: Okay. That’s really important to make the point. So, if you’re in- because there are so many people who have been stood down, who would have private health. And in fact…
RACHEL DAVID: That’s right.
LEON BYNER: …I was talking to some people last night – my phone’s been going amazing – and they’ve asked me to find this out. And I said: well look, I’m talking to Dr David today. I’ll ask her.

So, if you’ve got, say, private health cover and you’ve been stood down and you’re thinking: oh my god, I’ve got a payment coming out shortly and I know that I’ve got the money – are you saying ring the health fund?

LEON BYNER: And tell them that you’ve got financial challenges.
LEON BYNER: And they will say…
RACHEL DAVID: It will differ slightly between the funds because they’re all separate businesses. But they all have funds available for people in hardship, and they will be able to discuss the circumstances and either provide a holiday from premiums, or a suspension of premiums, or a discount on premiums.
LEON BYNER: Alright.
RACHEL DAVID: Now, it is possible that, like a number of services out there, that folks doing this might be put on hold or there might be some inconvenience in those calls in the next 24 hours or so. But they are working around the clock to appoint additional call centre people so that any on hold time is minimised as much as possible.
LEON BYNER: Now there’s something else I want to tell the public about that you’ve done and that is that individual Telehealth consultations with psychologists, alright and other Telehealth with doctors is now going to be covered?
RACHEL DAVID: Correct. Now, the Medicare system, the Federal Government system, is covering the Telehealth for doctors. But the health funds are responsible under extras cover for a large percentage of mental health consultations that are provided by psychologists in the community. If they were to be continued to be provided face to face, that would increase the spread of the virus.
RACHEL DAVID: So we are, as quickly as possible, transferring the funding of psychology to Telehealth, particularly focusing on people who are in an existing treatment plan. We want to ensure that they retain continuity of care through this difficult time. And we’re also aware that people- that the current self-isolation, and social distancing, and quarantine is highly likely to increase the anxiety in the community and the rate of occurrence of mental health conditions, so we want to make this available as broadly as possible.

So again, people that are referred to a psychologist by their GP – if they’re with a health fund, it will be able to be provided by Telehealth.

LEON BYNER: Alright. Again, there might be a bit of a wait but you’re putting on more call centre staff.
RACHEL DAVID: That’s correct.
LEON BYNER: Alright. Rachel David, thank you very much.
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