The Australian Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons (ASOS) has described as outrageous a decision by National Mutual Health Insurance trading as HBA to exclude from full member benefits 31 private hospitals in Victoria.

Victorian Chairman of the ASOS, Dr Greg Hoy, said the justification (namely that HBA needs to contain its costs) for taking away benefits from HBA contributors who seek to use some of Melbourne’s leading private hospitals was “pathetic”.

“Many HBA contributors may choose to swap to another fund thus increasing cost pressures on those who remain with HBA.”

“The National Mutual AXA Group is one of the most profitable multi-national companies operating in Australia. In spite of this it has today decided to wipe full cover for those members who choose to use some of the best private hospitals in Victoria.”

National Mutual Health Insurance states “to have consistently achieved a high absolute profit in comparison to the industry.” (National Mutual Holdings Analyst Compendium 1996 Financial Results).

NMHI has the majority of its policyholders in South Australia and Victoria. Its operations are mainly in Victoria and South Australia, where it has market shares of 32% and 60% respectively. It is 100% owned by National Mutual Holdings which in turn is 51% owned by the French insurance giant AXA. “The AXA group is our largest share holder owning 51% of National Mutual Holdings, so they obviously have a huge stake in our continued success”. 1996 National Mutual Holdings Annual Review.

National Coordinator of ASOS Mr Stephen Milgate said “HBA’s moves follow the direction of Dr Wooldridge’s failed health care policy. Instead of more choice we are getting less. Instead of lower private health insurance costs we are paying more. Nearly 70,000 people have left health funds in the last 3 months.”

“Today’s decision by HBA is yet another savage blow to private health care in Victoria” Mr Milgate said.