Hospital operator tips reversal over health insurance
THE head of Australia's largest private hospital operator says he is confident a Coalition government would roll back means-testing of private health insurance if it was elected in September.
Ramsay Health Care chief executive Chris Rex, whose company runs 66 hospitals and day surgeries in Australia, has railed against changes to the health insurance rebate since they came into effect last year.
He said he would be "surprised" if a reversal didn't happen, despite the Opposition refusing to commit to a strict time frame.
"The transformation in terms of the number of Australians who could afford health insurance - and who were removed from using the public system - was a major policy initiative of the previous Coalition government," Mr Rex said.
"I would be surprised if they didn't make sure it continued to operate successfully."
Mr Rex was speaking after his company reported a $138.4 million first-half profit, up 10.1 per cent from the corresponding period last year.
The company's founder and chairman, Paul Ramsay, was the biggest political donor last financial year, donating $505,000 to the Liberal Party through Paul Ramsay Holdings and $100,000 through Ramsay Health Care.
The government's new means testing removes the private health insurance rebate from some high-income earners, and pushes more money towards the public healthcare system.
"If the Coalition is in power and health insurance membership has been ... adversely affected, then I think the Coalition would do whatever was needed to restore the balance," Mr Rex said.
The hospital operator upgraded its full-year profit growth forecast to 13-15 per cent, up from 10-12 per cent.
Mr Rex said the company was aiming to expand into new markets.
"We're not confining our business to markets where we already have hospitals," he said.
"We are looking at other geographies as well."
The health group, which also operates in Britain, France and Indonesia, posted an interim dividend of 29¢ fully franked, up 13.7 per cent from the corresponding period.