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Vinnies worried about health insurance threat to poor

The rising cost of private health insurance is widening the gap between the rich and the poor and threatens to make Australia an "unhealthy" nation, according to the St Vincent de Paul Society.

"Inequality for our nation is bad for our health and the economic cost of that inequality is enormous," John Falzon, national research officer for the Society, told the Catholic Weekly.

Mr Falzon was commenting on last week's announcement by Health Minister Tony Abbott of approval for an 8% rise in health insurance premiums.

"It is well established that people who are richer have better health, and people who are poorer have much worse health, not just because of the difference in access to health services, but the quality of housing, diet and life in general because of the effects of poverty.

"For every person that is unwell in our nation there are health costs associated, whether they are borne by the private pocket or by the public purse."

Mr Falzon says the experience in the US, which has a high level of private health funding and also very high health costs overall, is a case in point.

And research by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling shows that a saving of up to $4 billion a year in health would be made if everyone in the nation were as healthy as the top 20% of earners.

The increase translates to around an extra $30 a month for an average family, and comes at the same time as an interest rate hike.

Health cost hike widens rich-poor gap - Vinnies (Catholic Weekly 13/3/05)

LINKS (not endorsed by Church Resources)
St Vincent de Paul Society
Private health premiums (Department of Health and Ageing 2/3/05)
Australian Health Insurance Association

8% rise in health insurance "no surprise" to Catholic Health (CathNews 3/3/05)

11 Mar 2005