Thousands of Gold Coast private hospital patients could potentially be facing massive out-of-pocket expenses due to a stalemate between the city’s biggest private hospital operator and one of the countries leading private health insurers.
BUPA Health Insurance has failed to reach a new agreement with Ramsay Health Care, which operates five healthcare facilities across the Gold Coast including Pindara, John Flynn and Southport Private.
Pindara Private Hospital CEO Mark Page says hospitals have faced challenges through COVID that have come at a significant cost including providing appropriate PPE, increasing our cleaning, and ensuring additional infection.
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“This increase in vigilance and ensuring patient safety comes at a significant cost. In negotiations around rate increases, health funds must acknowledge the increasing wage and supply costs required to ensure ongoing quality patient care in our hospitals,” Mr Page says.
“Unfortunately, terms that acknowledge those cost increases have not been reached with Bupa in our negotiations to date.”
There are concerns thousands may be impacted, with more than one in four patients across Ramsay’s Gold Coast hospitals insured with BUPA.
In the past year, Pindara Private Hospital admitted more than 30,000 Bupa patients with a further 5,000 Bupa patients presenting to its Emergency Department.
Mr Page says he is concerned that reaching an agreement with Bupa is “unlikely before next week’s deadline” of August 2.
However, Bupa Managing Director Chris Carroll says their negotiations with Ramsay are continuing – and there are no immediate risks to patients.
“We are hopeful of reaching an agreement,” Mr Carroll says.
“While Ramsay will end its current contract with Bupa on August 2, there are no immediate changes to the coverage of Bupa members and they will not face any additional out-of-pocket costs.
“Bupa members are fully covered at Ramsay hospitals at least until October 2022, and in some cases, members remain covered well into 2023.”
According to figures from Ramsay Healthcare, Bupa members make up around 31% of patients at Southport Private Hospital, 27% at John Flynn and 26% at Pindara.
Bupa says they are working hard to reach a suitable outcome with Ramsay Health Care.
“We understand the uncertainty this negotiation is causing to some of our members,” Mr Carroll says.
“We want our customers to know that our first priority in our negotiations with Ramsay has been to keep healthcare costs affordable especially when cost of living pressures continue to impact families.”