RACGP represents GP concerns at Parliamentary life insurance inquiry

Amanda Lyons

22/08/2018 1:44:12 PM

The life insurance industry has proposed a greater role for itself in workers’ rehabilitation, but the RACGP counselled a cautious approach at a Parliamentary inquiry into the issue.

The Financial Services Council has suggested allowing private insurers to pay for medical treatment for worker rehabilitation could benefit more than 10,000 Australians a year.
The Financial Services Council has suggested allowing private insurers to pay for medical treatment for worker rehabilitation could benefit more than 10,000 Australians a year.

The Financial Services Council (FSC) submitted a proposal earlier this year about the involvement of the private insurance industry in worker rehabilitation that was considered during a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services (the Committee) for inquiry.
The second public hearing for the inquiry was held yesterday in Canberra, with the RACGP’s perspective on the issue represented by Dr Caroline Johnson, a GP and Senior Lecturer in General Practice at the University of Melbourne.
‘GPs are often responsible for the initial assessment and early treatment of workplace injuries,’ Dr Johnson told the Committee. ‘GPs work with patients, insurers, employers and other medical specialists to ensure a suitably-managed and timely return to work.
‘Therefore, as GPs we should be involved and consulted on any changes to worker rehabilitation arrangements.’

Dr-Caroline-Johnson-text-(1).jpgDr Caroline Johnson told the Parliamentary inquiry it is vital that GPs are consulted on any changes to worker rehabilitation arrangements.
The FSC has suggested amending current legislation to allow private insurers to pay for medical treatment or therapy for the purposes of worker rehabilitation could benefit more than 10,000 Australians a year and save the Federal Government over $1 billion in healthcare costs over the next two decades.
In terms of customer protection, the FSC provided a policy framework stipulating four key measures:

  • Treatment offered by the life insurer must be consented to by the customer and arranged through their treating physician
  • Customers cannot be coerced by their life insurer to accept treatment or return to work
  • Customers cannot have income protection or permanent disability insurance payments stopped for refusing any offered treatment
  • Any decisions following offers of payment for treatment would be covered by existing internal and external dispute resolution processes
However, many consumers and healthcare professionals, including the RACGP, remain concerned about the potential implications of the proposal.
Dr Johnson highlighted RACGP concerns at the hearing about maintaining GP involvement in a patient’s treatment, should the life insurance industry expand its role in worker rehabilitation.
‘It is important that the choice and control about treatment and interventions is arranged with the agreement and support of the patient’s GP,’ she said. ‘The RACGP considers that adequate safeguards to protect the patient would be paramount to ensure any treatment is safe, effective, and evidence-based.’
Dr Johnson also emphasised the college’s determination to maintain equity of access to general practice for all people, regardless of their ability to afford life insurance.
‘Measures will need to be developed to ensure that the involvement of private insurers in worker rehabilitation does not create a two-tiered primary care system, but instead complements and creates efficiencies in the current system,’ she said.
Dr Johnson also raised the Committee’s 2017 inquiry into the insurance industry, during which the RACGP spoke on the issue of insurance company requests for patient records. The Committee accepted the majority of the RACGP’s recommendations on the issue as a result of the inquiry, and itself recommended that the RACGP and the FSC collaborate on agreed protocols for requesting and providing medical information for life insurance applications or claims.
This collaboration has been given a six-month timeframe and if the two organisations cannot reach an agreed consensus by that time, the Committee will put in place its own recommendations, which adhere closely to those suggested by the RACGP. As yet, no consensus has been reached.
Dr Johnson told the Committee the RACGP believes it is important to see the outcomes of the recommendations from the Committee’s 2017 inquiry before proceeding with any matters arising from the current one.
‘We strongly recommend these concerns be addressed before any options for greater involvement for private sector life insurers in worker rehabilitation are considered,’ she said.

Financial Services Council life insurance worker rehabilitation

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