A Stable Medical Indemnity Sector is Crucial

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I would like to update you on the AMA s ongoing advocacy, on your behalf, on the issue of medical indemnity insurance, and alert you to the opportunity to have your say.

We all know a steady medical indemnity sector is essential to our ability to practice, and to maintain our focus where it should be - on our patients. We’ve enjoyed relative stability since the Government introduced the Indemnity Insurance Fund – a series of schemes designed to stabilise the indemnity insurance sector after the indemnity crisis of the early 2000s.

As many of you are aware, the Commonwealth Government made a surprise cut to the funding of these schemes in late 2016, and announced a simultaneous review of all the support schemes.

We condemned the cut, and we condemned the decision being made ahead of the review taking place.

Since then, we’ve had a change of Health Minister. I have engaged with Minister Hunt extensively on a whole range of issues. He has been very willing to listen and learn, often to my personal experiences, and this is one issue that we have spent some time on.

As an Obstetrician in private practice, I need little encouragement to talk about Indemnity and the threat that potential litigation represents to confidence and certainty in our working lives. Some of you will be aware that two of the major providers are leaving the Obstetric market in the UK. Many of you will recall the time that certain high risk areas of medical practice were deemed ‘uninsurable’ in the US.

In my discussions with Minister Hunt, I have advocated strongly for the Commonwealth to continue to support these schemes. They do so much more than subsidise premiums - they provide stability and something of a safety net for private medical practice, a sector that has suffered turbulence in other areas – the freeze on MBS patient rebates, private health insurance changes, funding constraints and patchwork reform.

I have stated publically that the Indemnity support schemes are a public policy success and should be celebrated.

As a direct result of advocacy by the AMA, the terms of reference and the preamble for this review have moved beyond an ill thought out savings exercise.

They now appear to better understand the success of the schemes, and instead of looking like a ‘slash and burn’ exercise, seek to consider how we might even improve the system. The review also offers the opportunity to demonstrate an understanding of the link between Commonwealth support, affordable indemnity insurance and cost efficient, stable and universal health care provision for patients.

However, with the review underway we are at a critical time. I encourage you to make your voice heard. For those who are interested in reading the consultation paper or responding, please see here. For those seeking further background, I would encourage you to read past Australian Medicine pieces on the topic, some of which can be found here and here, and a good recap of the history which can be found here.

I have also written to all the Presidents of the Colleges, Associations and Societies to encourage them to also speak in a strong, united voice in support of these schemes continuing.

As the peak body representing the entire profession across Australia, we understand the importance of a stable medical indemnity industry to medical practice and to universal healthcare. Our indemnity industry is professionally run, well capitalised and majority doctor-owned.

There is no doubt that, as usual, the AMA is doing more than its share of the heavy lifting. I seek your support in advocating for measures that will protect and sustain the industry into the future.

Yours Sincerely,

Dr Michael Gannon 

President, AMA