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Update: Private Health Insurance, World Pharmacist Day and Sonographer and Radiographer Differences

August 7, 2019 0 Comments

In this week’s update we explore the sustainable future of the Private Health Insurance Industry in Australia, the origins of World Pharmacist Day and the differences with Sonographers and Radiographers.

To find out more what recruitment advice suits your needs the most please get in touch with our friendly senior consultants.

Last week’s newsletter update talked about additional Soft Skills that are important for Doctors to have, what it is like Being a Pharmacist and the Stress Sonographers endure.

Private Health Insurance, World Pharmacist Day and Sonographer and Radiographer Differences

Trouble in the Private Health Insurance Industry

What Is World Pharmacist Day?

Sonographer or Radiographer: The Differences


Trouble in the Private Health Insurance Industry

Private Health Insurance in Australia is a hot topic for politicians and it has been for many decades. Regardless of whether you have private health insurance, negative implications from this industry will impact everyone.

In recent months however, the future of the industry has been up for debate. Unprecedented new findings have caused the industry bodies such as The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) and Private Healthcare Australia to step in with recommendations and guidelines for a more sustainable future.

There are a lot of medical jobs in demand in Australia, and for our GPs we know that Private patients can be a great source of your income. But most importantly the private patients allow you to spend time with them and to exercise your knowledge and skills in more ways.

As the Grattan Institute recently reported, there are 3 key areas.

  • What exactly is the purpose of private health insurance in a public and universal system?
  • Do the current features of the private health insurance industry support its overall role in the healthcare system?
  • Is government support for the private health insurance industry an effective and efficient use of its resources?

Healthcare Sign With Scrabble Letters

What exactly is the purpose of private health insurance in a public and universal system?

In Australia, there are 37 Private Health Insurers. It is estimated 80% of the consumers are with 5 of the main players – Bupa, Medibank, HCF, NIB and HBF, in no particular order.

The public and private healthcare sectors and the reforms they have gone through date back to as early as the 1940s and throughout each decade since then have been updated with new governments and coalitions.

It seems there is an unhappy mix of what the purpose of private health insurance can be. On the one hand, private health insurance can Compliment the public health services. But it can also Substitute.

Complimenting happens when you add-on additional covers in your insurance for areas that the public sector and Medicare currently do not cover. And for those that can afford it, Substituting happens when you fully take on the private care options available (separate from the public sector) such as access to special doctors, waiting times and quality of patient rooms to only name a few.

Focus too much on complimenting? There can be negative effects to the public sector. Focus too much on substituting? There are already problems with the affordability of health insurance and this can make it worse.

Red First Aid Kit Box

Do the current features of the private health insurance industry support its overall role in the healthcare system?

Firstly, the problems with encouraging complimenting private health covers will impact the long term public health sector. With complimenting, patients are using their private health cover in a public setting such as hospitals and surgeries. To encourage this could lead to negative side effects.

For the patients? This can create a ‘queue jumping’ scenario whereby the private patients’ needs are looked at first. And this itself also has a negative impact for the remaining public patients, whereby it encourages the businesses to use ‘skimming’ practices – prioritise your patients according to the ones you have the highest profit margin on with the lowest average cost of care.

For the doctors? Encourage them to provide more services in the private sector and it creates an opportunity cost of fewer resources being allocated to the public space. A direct impact for this can be the waiting times in a public hospital if the Specialists also have a lot of their time booked for private patients.

Secondly, the problems with encouraging substituting private health covers will impact its affordability. And this is currently already a hot topic issue.

APRA reported that more than 64,000 people in 2018 dropped out of their private health insurance. And there is also a large number of people who have reduced or downgraded their private cover to only pay for the basics and limit their add-ons.

Similarly, the Grattan Institute report this year about The History and Purposes of Private Health Insurance highlights that yearly since 2011, premiums for private cover have been increasing significantly more than the average wages and health expenditures.

This has created an interesting problem for the industry. A problem that has escalated this year to the point of the regulatory bodies weighing in with their thoughts for a sustainable future.

It’s mainly the younger people who are dropping out while the population over the age of 65 are increasing their private cover and subsequently also use it more. Similar out-of-pocket expenses are happening for patients just like we previously highlighted in GP practices and their bulk billing through Medicare. And this makes it tough for everyone.

As in this example, an 84-year-old with top-level private insurance still had to pay over $10k out of his own pocket, due to a rebate for his particular surgery that only covered a certain amount and due to his doctors making him undergo several MRI scans which were also not covered.

Sign Of Emergency Department At Hospital

Is government support for the private health insurance industry an effective and efficient use of its resources?

The government has been trying to support the industry both currently and in the past.

It created the Private Health Insurance Incentive Scheme, which later became a simplified Rebate that would support different income levels of its patients. This is where the Medicare Levy Surcharge comes into play when everyone does their yearly tax returns. But as the previous example showed, this Rebate won’t always help you.

It also introduced a Lifetime Health Cover – where different premiums could be charged to people who took out their private insurance covers early on. To give you an example, those who join a private insurer for the first time after the age of 30 could experience a loading of 2% on their premium each year.

The subsidies the industry receives are estimated to be $9 billion a year – $6 billion for the Rebate and $3 billion for inpatient private medical services. And evidently, the government can boast about their recent reforms leading to the lowest premium price change in a decade, only 3.25% increase this year. This is still higher than the % increase of wages but it is a step in the right direction for now.

But, according to the regulating bodies the government’s efforts are not sufficient enough for the long term sustainability of the private health insurance industry.

APRA compiled facts and figures from all of their private insurers in Australia. They wanted to see how everyone was managing the risks of affordability and policy changes and they were not happy with the results.

So unhappy, they expressed their concerns for a sustainable future and will closely monitor certain insurers that face the highest risks. Their fear is that the government will not sufficiently help struggling insurers and some may have to merge with others or risk closing down due to tough profit margins for the insurers themselves – recently only an average of 5% and shrinking.

And Private Healthcare Australia’s chief executive has similarly warned that if the government wants to help more, they need to act sooner rather than later. They argue there have been enough official Inquiries already into different aspects of the industry, now is a time for action!

Stethoscope And Heart Shape

Two possible calls for action they recommend:

  • Increasing the insurance Rebate
  • More effective management of claims costs

Increasing the Rebate will be a politically loaded issue, as that will be an increase in expenses for the government. We will need to wait and see what will happen with this issue.

Effective management of claims costs seems to be a more realistic starting point. This is one of the biggest factors for the younger generation to opt out from private health insurance.

For health insurance you can choose between a set number of Covers from low to high and when overall healthcare costs increase the burden is shared among all members. Compare that to the car insurance industry, where individual circumstances of the person and the car will determine the insurance premium.

And finally, a more silent recommendation that also goes hand in hand with the Future of Health recommendations in Australia we wrote about, is to focus more on Preventative measures. The more people we can treat without repeated visits, the better the workload, spreading of costs and funding can be for the healthcare industry to those that need help the most.

What do you think will help to improve the insurance industries in Australia? Will the private sector be the future or will it be the public sector? Or a more streamlined, effective combination of both? We would love to hear from you.

A lot of doctors that we support either currently still work in hospitals or have done so prior to joining a practice. We hear about the challenges of not only the medical centres but also the GP Superclinics, surgeries, pharmacies and medical imaging providers. And that is where being educated on the right career and recruitment advice suited to your situation is key!

Pharmacy Pills In The Shape Of Planet Earth

What Is World Pharmacist Day?

Don’t open your champagne bottle just yet, it is only July and we are a few months away from World Pharmacist Day on September 25. Why do we celebrate it?

This annual event marks a special occasion for Pharmacists all over the world. What started off in humble and festive beginnings, has now become a vocal point of discussion for pharmacists to host events and get together to celebrate their profession and any recent insights. It can also be a great opportunity to discuss how to be a better pharmacist.

And as we keep emphasising in What It’s Like Being a Pharmacist, and the Power of the Pharmacy Industry, the positive influences of good pharmacies are important to highlight.

For anyone that regularly reads the News and Updates of the Pharmacy Board of Australia, you will know why empowering good pharmacists is key to helping patients with their medications.

World Pharmacist Day Themes

Last year’s World Pharmacist Day theme was about pharmacists being “your medicines experts”. Multiple findings were discussed about the future of the industry and why the knowledge and communication of pharmacists was key to ensuring patients reaped all the benefits.

This year’s theme is centred around “safe and effective medicines for all”. Medication errors happen and so do human ones. Discussing topics centred around these errors will be the topic of lively discussion.

Four Pills Next To Each Other

Origin of World Pharmacist Day

But why do we celebrate September 25 as World Pharmacist Day? And why do some pharmacists also like to give a nod to May 14 and its historical importance?

The date of September 25 was chosen last decade in 2009 during a pharmacists’ conference in Istanbul, Turkey and since then adopted as the annual celebration day across the world.

But it was a only proposed date by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP). And rightfully so, as that day in 1912 was the day the FIP officially formed in The Hague, Netherlands.

Prior to that Turkey, that year’s host of the conference, had their own National Pharmacy Day on May 14. Their pharmacists used to celebrate the profession for centuries with festivities and sharing of knowledge.

But a major turning point for pharmacists happened on May 14, 1839. One of the Ottoman Sultans who reigned at that time laid the groundwork for a Reorganisation which directly impacted the Turkish law and society. It opened the door to embrace with European style education, clothing, architecture and institutional organisations to just name a few.

And as part of these new reforms, the first ever Imperial School of Medicine was established in 1827. And on May 14 1839, they officially held their first Pharmacy class in the presence of the Sultan himself and a doctor from Austria who was invited to teach.

And there you have a quick summary of World Pharmacist Day. How will you celebrate this year and what is your preferred champagne? At Gorilla Jobs, we look forward to celebrating it and to reflect on the contributions pharmacists have made throughout history.

Doctors Staring Out Of Window In Hallway

Sonographer or Radiographer: The Differences

In Medical Imaging, we work across the board to help as many providers as we can. One question we get from time to time is what are the differences between a Sonographer and Radiographer in deciding which is suited for you?

Both have different training programs, different responsibilities and average salaries. But both can offer a lucrative and long-lasting career for the right candidate.

Training Differences

While both work with medical images, the primary difference can be summed up in the way the technology is used to produce these images.

Radiography technicians will work with medical equipment that uses X-rays and other types of radiation. Whereas the Ultrasound technicians work with medical equipment that uses high-frequency sound waves.

Sonographers will need to complete a comprehensive clinical training program with an accredited course of study. This can take 2 to 4 years depending on if you have any undergraduate degrees and then the Sonographers can decide to further specialise. Areas to specialise in can be in Cardiac/Heart Diseases, Obstetrics & Gynaecology to name a few.

Radiographers will need to enroll for a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree. This can take up to 4 years depending on where you are and will come with a supervised training program that also needs to be completed. Radiographers will also have areas to further specialise in such as CT or MRI to name a few. 

Both work closely together with other medical specialists and their expertise can be key to determining a patient’s ailments. As we highlighted last week, simply using Ultrasound technology can already show you multiple areas for further examinations based on the results in the images and what the qualified specialist is looking for.

Drawing Of Dollar Sign In Notepad

Salary Differences

What can candidates expect to be paid in the rad market?

The Sonographer salary in Australia can vary from around $55 per hour for junior candidates up to $75 per hour for senior ones. For Radiographers the salary is in a lower range from around $35 per hour up to $60 per hour.

Please keep in mind there are multiple variables that can determine your actual salary.

How skilled and qualified you are in areas the medical imaging provider has work in; how many days per week you are available to work; whether you will work in a metropolitan city or a rural area; and whether you want to work on a permanent contract or as a locum radiographer or locum sonographer.

The more you can bring to the table with your new potential employer the more they will work with you to find a suitable position.

Our friendly and experienced consultant Judith Butcher can help you to decide what position is suitable for you and what you can expect from your new position. Find out what Sonographer, Radiographer and Radiologist job prospects she has for you!

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Gorilla Jobs can assist you with exploring a variety of job opportunities across our large network of clients looking for qualified staff. Our experienced consultants in the Doctor, Imaging and Pharmacy divisions look forward to helping you.

Speak to one of our Senior Consultants today and find out what career and recruitment advice will help you to navigate through the positions available and which ones are most suited to your situation.

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