Tourists targeted in medical insurance awareness campaign

Amanda Lyons

31/01/2019 12:12:31 PM

NSW Minister of Health Brad Hazzard wants to stop local taxpayers footing the bill for tourists who need medical care on their trip to Australia.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard wants to stop taxpayers in his state from wearing the medical costs of uninsured tourists. (Image: Dean Lewins)
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard wants to stop taxpayers in his state from wearing the medical costs of uninsured tourists. (Image: Dean Lewins)

Sun, sea and sand.
Classic ingredients for many holiday seekers, and resources that Australia has in abundance – and they are bringing tourists to the nation’s shores in increasing numbers, with 8.4 million visitors recorded between January and September of 2018.
But, according to New South Wales Minister of Health Brad Hazzard, the growing legions of visitors also bring with them increasing cost to the Australian healthcare system.
‘If uninsured visitors fall ill or have a serious accident, they can end up in one of our public hospitals for weeks or even months, leaving taxpayers with a substantial unpaid bill,’ he said.
Figures from the NSW Department of Health show that about 16,000 patients who are ineligible for Medicare end up requiring hospital care in the state each year. This results in a cumulative bill of $100 million, of which around $70 million is paid, leaving the remaining $30 million to be covered by local taxpayers.
Minster Hazzard first raised the issue at the Federal level and with other state and territory health ministers in September last year, proposing a requirement of mandatory health insurance for all temporary visa classes.
‘Presently, it is only mandatory for some visa classes, such as students and certain work visas, to take out health insurance for the duration of their stay in Australia,’ he said.
Minister Hazzard has now launched a media campaign aimed at informing overseas visitors that they may not covered for medical treatment in Australia.
‘No person needing urgent medical treatment will be turned away from a NSW public hospital,’ Minister Hazzard said.
‘But this will ensure taxpayers don’t wear the costs incurred by Medicare-ineligible patients not covered under a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement.’
However, some in the travel industry do not support Minister Hazzard’s proposal, and point out that revenue raised by tourism can make up for any medical costs incurred.
Chief Executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum Australia, Margy Osmond, believes the Minister’s concerns are overstated.
‘International visitors to NSW alone represent $13.1 billion for the economy,’ she told Insurance Business after Minister Hazzard’s initial statement last year.
‘In a remarkably competitive international tourism market, the last thing you want to do is add a disincentive to anyone choosing Australia. Minister Hazzard’s proposal would do exactly that.’
Ms Osmond also proposed another method by which the healthcare sector could recoup any costs resulting from uninsured tourists.
‘Currently, the Federal Government collects close to $1 billion per annum from the Passenger Movement Charge,’ Ms Osmond said.
‘If the state health ministers are genuinely concerned about this issue, their best route of recovery is via the Federal Treasurer.’

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