Reconsidering the role of private health funds in Australia: a dynamic model.

John F. Bridges

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In recent years the private sector has played a more important role in the funding and provision of Australian hospital care as a consequence of federal government policies aimed at increasing participation in private health insurance (health funds). These policies include tax incentives, a 30% rebate on premiums and lifetime community rating (premiums set by age). While these policies have improved the short-term profitability of the private sector, its long-term success is not certain. This is because negotiations between health funds and private hospitals are often myopic, the nature of the insurance product may be inefficient, and there is a general lack of academic research on the private sector. This paper highlights the importance of the relationship between health funds and private hospitals in ensuring the long-term viability of the industry. It uses a simple overlapping generations model to demonstrate that it is not only the price that health funds pay that impacts on the capital value of hospitals, but also it is important how they structure their policies and attract individuals. The model demonstrates the potential benefits of implementing health insurance based on intertemporal transfers of funds rather than the current cross-subsidization. Such a policy would see health funds become an important store of capital. Also highlighted are the difficulties of discussing fundamental changes to the health care system. While recent health care reforms have been described as driven by ideology rather than evidence, in the Australian context there is little evidence on which to base policy. Researchers need to be more proactive in their consideration and evaluation of alternative health care policies. Through quality research on the private sector, academics can better guide policy makers at the national and institutional level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-117
Number of pages9
JournalApplied health economics and health policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Health Policy


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