I was very pleased to have my colleague, Deputy Leader of the Nationals and Minister for Rural Health Fiona Nash, in Dubbo last week confirming that a re-elected Coalition Government will contribute $25 million towards construction of an integrated cancer centre for Western New South Wales (NSW), based at Dubbo Hospital.
On another health issue, I was happy to hear of the announcement over the weekend that a re-elected Coalition Government will commit to ensuring that Australians in rural and remote communities get access to private health insurance cover that better reflects the health needs and challenges that come with life in the bush.
It is absolutely pivotal that Australians living in regional areas receive better value for money through private health reforms, as well as those living in capitals cities. In addition, we need to make sure that people in country Australia are paying for services they can actually access and will use.
Having spent many years talking to locals living in rural and remote communities across Western NSW, I understand first-hand that access to health services, as well as people’s priorities, can differ significantly to those in our capital cities.
For example, the long distances often travelled for both basic and specialist health care, combined with the higher-risk nature of rural work, makes ambulance and travel costs a priority in some communities.
In regional areas there is also higher importance given to innovative and emerging technologies such as tele-health and remote monitoring, as well as access to local allied and primary health care services supported by private health insurers, such as optometrists, dentists, physiotherapists and weight management.
Someone in a rural community may also not have a choice between a local public and private hospital; therefore choice of accommodation for a local hospital stay is not as high a priority as it may be in a capital city.
A re-elected Coalition Government is committed to working with rural health and consumer groups, private health insurers and other key stakeholders to develop a private health insurance product designed specifically for Australians living in rural and remote areas.
The Private Health Ministerial Advisory Committee will be tasked with developing this product as a priority, together with other reforms that will give consumers better access to standard levels of coverage, easier to understand policies and fine print, standardised medical procedure definitions and single medical bills.
A re-elected Coalition Government will also protect the current community rating system to ensure rural and remote Australians aren’t disadvantaged.