25 November 2005

Changes to Improve the Availability and Affordability of Medical Indemnity Insurance

The Australian Government is to consider possible changes to further improve the availability and affordability of medical indemnity insurance for health care professionals.

Assistant Treasurer Mal Brough today announced the release of a Treasury discussion paper on possible amendments to the Medical Indemnity (Prudential Supervision and Product Standards) Act 2003. That Act was put in place as part of a raft of measures to deal with the crisis of unaffordable premiums in the medical indemnity insurance market, arising from the problems then facing UMP.

The paper aims to provide options and invite comment on making medical indemnity insurance more widely available for health care professionals including doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, dentists, optometrists and other health care providers required to be licensed or registered by a State or Territory.

Currently, only insurers subject to Australian Prudential Regulation Authority supervision can provide medical indemnity cover to health care professionals.  Also, insurers are required to offer doctors retroactive cover for claims incurred in the past and run-off cover for claims made after the doctor has ceased to practice.  The cover must be for a minimum of $5 million, Mr Brough said.

These requirements can limit the availability and affordability of insurance for such groups as employed doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, dentists, optometrists, universities and volunteers.  I am seeking submissions from the public on these issues by Friday, 27 January 2006.

Mr Brough said the Government had already done a lot to improve the availability and affordability of insurance for doctors in private practice.

A recent review of the Australian medical indemnity market found the high cost claims scheme benefits an average doctor by $1146 per annum. The premium support scheme provides an average of $409 for each doctor and Government assistance provides reinsurance savings to insurers, benefiting doctors by an average of $607. The changes being considered for other health care professionals will not reduce the assistance the Government is providing to doctors in private practice through these measures.

The discussion paper is available on the Treasury website at www.treasury.gov.au .