Parasitic health funds

Ross Gittins

You won't believe it, but my birthday was on Tuesday and I got a present from the federal government. I also got a card from my state member, sending his "very best wishes" for reaching such an "important milestone" in my life. I almost wrote back asking him to alert the Queen to be standing by in 30 years' time. Instead, my ever-sceptical mind told me the pollies have awarded themselves privileged access to the private information we're obliged to give the electoral commission.

So, what was my fabulous federal birthday present? Apparently, I'm now so ancient and infirm I get a bigger private health insurance tax rebate. I never tire of pointing out that, contrary to what people say, our cost of living, overall, has not been rising strongly, unless you regard 2 per cent a year as 'soaring'. It is true, however, that a few, easily noticed prices have risen a lot – including the government-regulated price of private health insurance.

My 'important milestone' reminds me that people have been complaining about – and I've been writing about – the high cost of private health insurance for as long as I've been an economic journalist. And the opposition leader of the day – Bill Shorten, as it happens – hasn't resisted the temptation to exploit people's disaffection by putting it firmly on the agenda for this maybe-there'll-be-an-election year.

The popular view is that everyone needs private insurance – if only they could afford it. Which about half of us can't. Opinion polling by Essential has found that, although a clear majority of people believe 'health insurance isn't worth the money you pay for it', 83 per cent of people believe that 'the government should do more to keep private health insurance affordable'.

The former opinion is right; the latter is delusional.

Read the rest of this story at the Sydney Morning Herald