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Australian government denies radical overhaul of hospital funding despite leak of documents

CANBERRA, May 29 — The Turnbull government Monday denied it was considering an overhaul of its hospital funding model after leaked documents uncovered plans to explore a cut in public hospital funding and strip benefits from private health customers.

The leaked documents, obtained by Fairfax Media, said the government would cut public hospital funding and scrap a private healthcare rebate to save money, but Health Minister Greg Hunt denied the report was government policy, insisting that the government’s commitment to private health and the public hospital system was “rock solid.”

“It’s clear and categorical (this report is) not government policy. It won’t be government policy … and will never be government policy,” Hunt said on Monday.

Fellow government frontbencher and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann expanded on the Health Minister’s denial, telling a press conference that the government was boosting investment in the healthcare systems – both public and private.

“There’s no secret plan. What is reported in Fairfax papers does not reflect government policies,” Cormann told the press on Monday.

“The government’s policy is very clear. We’ve been boosting investment in (Australia’s publicly funded universal healthcare system) and (we’ve been) boosting investment in hospitals.

“Private health is a very important pillar in our health system and we need both public and private health to be strong so that we can ensure that all Australians can have affordable and timely access to world class hospital care. There is no such plan and the report does not reflect government policy.”

The leaked documents said the government was planning to abolish the private health insurance rebate – in which those who take out private health cover are refunded a portion of their premium by the government – and cut funding to hospitals.

The documents said the government had formed a taskforce to undertake a cost benefit analysis of the plan, which would result in the government funding just 35 percent of the cost of running public hospitals – down from the current 40 percent.

Citizens would also be required to foot the bill for private health “extras” normally included in plans, while the state governments would be asked to plug the hospital funding gap.

“States would be required to meet the balance of the cost for public patients, thus maintaining free public hospital services,” the document said. (Xinhua)

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