Monday, December 02, 2019

Expert reveals why the private health insurance sector is in a DEATH SPIRAL - as young Australians are smashed by rising costs

It is not a death spiral.  It is an exclusivity spiral.  Public hospital care is so deficient that those who can afford to go private will always do so -- even if they have to pay steep insurance premiums. But as medical and hospital costs rise that will be fewer and fewer people.

The idea behind public hospitals was to give everyone the sort of health care that only the rich could once afford. That has already been stymied by rising costs and is only going to get worse no matter what governments do

There is a constant flow of beneficial innovations but the new procedures generally cost big.  Already, it is mostly the rich who can afford many of them.  Trying to make them generally available would require huge tax hikes, which is not going to happen.  Healthcare already takes a huge bite out of the budget

Scrapping some of the more absurd defence expenditures -- such as the submarine program -- would  probably enable more public support for costly procedures, however.  I am all in favour of defence but the money given to it has to be usefully spent. The submarine project was an initiative of the Gillard Labor Party government.  You will find any number of critics of it online

Young Australians are avoiding private health insurance due to the exorbitant costs, sending the entire sector into what some experts have labelled a 'death spiral'.

As millennials turn their backs on private healthcare, the industry is finding it increasingly difficult to cover the cost of subsidising older and sicker members.

Grattan Institute health economist Stephen Duckett said the private system is in the midst of a 'death spiral' and needs urgent reforms to repair it.

The amount of people aged between 20 and 34 with private health cover has plunged 11 per cent in the last five years.

Most experts blame rising costs in hospital treatments for forcing the increase in health insurance premiums - which young people in particular can't afford.

But with the young and the healthy abandoning their policies, the sector is finding it less profitable because those that remain are often the old and the unwell - and likely to cash in on their policies more frequently.

Premiums are already increasing faster than inflation or wage growth, the Grattan Institute study found.

Duckett concluded 'Australians are increasingly unhappy with the private health insurance' on offer in the country.

As more people turn their backs on private care, pressure on the public health system mounts.

Extended waiting periods and customer dissatisfaction are predicted to continue getting worse if more people rely on the general, public sector.

Australia currently runs on a two-tier health system.

The first care being the universal public health insurance scheme, known as Medicare, which gives all Australians access to taxpayer-funded health care.

The second is the voluntary private health insurance system. About 45 per cent of Australians have private healthcare.

Private health insurance should offer members more variety when it comes to choosing practitioners, expedited treatments and a place within private hospitals.

Duckett's study also discussed the 'adverse selection spiral', in which higher-risk people continue purchasing private insurance while low risk people choose to leave to avoid subsidising costs for high-risk patients.

In turn, the average risk profile for the insurer rises, meaning they boost premiums to reflect the change and even more healthy people drop their cover as a result.


Unchecked rise of democracy deniers

They simply will not learn. They refuse to admit error, concede defeat or offer the crucial loser’s consent on which democracy hinges. Political opposition and public protest are fundamental in democracy. But there is a balance to be struck between such rights and the will of the majority as exercised through the ballot box.

That balance is out of kilter now. There are phonies in parliament, on campuses, all over social media and spewing erroneous groupthink from our public broadcasters. When facts don’t suit or reality confounds them, they console each other in the carefully constructed safe zones of university seminars or public radio forums. This cohort, for all its errors and misjudgments, dominates the public discussion; largely because of the heft of the taxpayer-funded media, university and quango sectors. They dominate now just as they did before this year’s election, before Don­ald Trump won and before Brexit.

On the ABC’s Insiders last week all three panellists agreed with the assertion Malcolm Turnbull had put forward that he would have won the election. Could they make such assessments if they understood what had transpired at the polls?

Having misjudged the electoral dynamic, you would expect a recalibration of perspectives might be unavoidable. Perhaps there would be a realisation from the media/political class that they had over-estimated the public appetite for climate action, underestimated resistance to increased taxation or missed anxiety about a return to ambivalent border security.

But no. There are no lessons. The ideological and policy settings of the media/political class remain unadjusted. They wander right up to the cheese again, take another bite, and get jolted again by the electoral shock.

They are the democracy deniers. Their version of public debate is one of virtual reality; their views are constantly reaffirmed, it is only the voters who get it wrong. For VR goggles, they can blinker themselves by watching the ABC, perhaps SBS for variety, reading Guardian Australia and discussing events at the Wheeler Centre or on Q&A.

The real world is kept at bay. When elections confound them, as conservative victories invari­ably do, they can blame strangers from the suburbs and the regions, demonise the barbarians at the commercial end of the broadcast spectrum or invoke that hardy perennial of the defeated leftist, the Murdoch conspiracy theory (as we have heard from Turnbull, Kevin Rudd and others). Anything but confront the truth. Ultimately this is futile, as Winston Churchill suggested: “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”

So, at the May election the Coali­tion picked up an extra seat, won more than 41 per cent of the primary vote and generated a 1 per cent swing towards it on a two-party-preferred basis, crushing Labor’s 33 per cent primary vote and snaring another term of government. Given the damage the government had inflicted on itself over the term, and the fracturing of the right-of-centre vote by One Nation and Clive Palmer, this result is full of foreboding for Labor. It is understandable that this would disappoint and dismay many people. But it is fundamental that they accept it.

Denial started on day one. The Ten Network’s Lisa Wilkinson wrote a strained open letter to Scott Morrison, apparently not comprehending that many people, most in fact, felt the country had dodged a bullet.

“Prime Minister, you may have noticed we’re all feeling just a little broken right now — broken-hearted in fact, at how toxic the Australian body politic has become — and a return to basic civility in public discourse would be a great start to that healing,” she wrote, apparently not sensing that the Prime Minister’s mainstream views and the way he had weathered attacks based on his religion might have been seen as a repudiation of the green-left, Twitter-fuel­led politics of abuse.

After a fiercely contested “climate election” Wilkinson seemed to want the losing party’s policies to prevail: “We know, too, that the climate is sick and tired. And things are getting worse.”

The campaigning to ignore the election result and adopt the defeated green-left agenda has only escalated. Politicians, activists and journalists have exaggerated, embellished and fabricated climate hysteria to justify the kinds of extreme climate policies rejected at the election.

Extinction Rebellion protesters have superglued themselves to roadways in Brisbane, children have skipped school, and local and state government workers have been given time off to “strike” for the sorts of climate policies federal voters avoided.

The Senate has rejected union integrity measures taken to the election, and medivac laws, passed against the government’s wishes by a coalition of Greens, independents and Labor before the election, still may not be repealed despite the government’s renewed mandate and strong border security record. What would voters know?

Undeniably, Energy Minister Angus Taylor used grossly erron­eous figures in a charged letter to Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. But given the letter was inconsequential and the figures were a misquote of the mayor’s own figures back to her, it is difficult to interpret the hysterical reaction from Labor and the media except as an exercise in retaliation: Taylor must be punished for winning a climate election.

Anthony Albanese, Greens leader Richard Di Natale, Turnbull and Australian Republic Movement chairman Peter FitzSimons pushed this week to rid our Constitution of the monarchy — as if voters had not just passed judgment on Labor, and its election promise of another republic referendum within three years.

Labor went to the election criticising the Coalition’s economic plans and promising remedies that included almost $400bn in additional tax revenue. Yet to abandon those tax grabs, it still critiques the Coalition’s economic management but proposes additional fiscal stimulus now.

It all smacks of an election result denied. It replicates the politics of the US and Britain, where not for a single moment have members of the media/political class accepted the will of the people as expressed through the election of Trump or the referendum vote for Brexit.

In this manifestation of democracy denial by the green left, elections are reduced to markers that deliver no lessons and in which the losers refuse to concede a point. Opposition merely morphs, through electoral rejection, into resistance.

Sure, we recognise the checks and balances. In Australia we have a bicameral system in which the government, typically, does not carry a majority in the Senate.

A narrow election win does not mean a government rules unencumbered. But for democracy to operate effectively, people such as Wilkinson and her fellow travellers must comprehend some sense of mandate. There must be some element of loser’s consent. Instead we see loser’s bitterness and loser’s revenge.

No party or individual should be expected to surrender their entire agenda because of electoral admonishment. But somewhere a lesson must be learned; the will of the voters must endorse or reject something.

Otherwise what is an election other than a well-funded and formulaic phase in a perpetual saga of toxic politicking? Besides, mainstream voters will not change their minds based on the bloody-mindedness of Senate crossbenchers or Extinction Rebellion stunt masters, the agendas run by media or tub-thumping of protest parties such as the Greens.

For Labor, a party of government, there is a crucial balance to be struck between causing mischief and learning lessons, between accepting democracy and standing on principle, between advocating an agenda and listening to constituents. Because if the will of the people is thwarted, disregarded and ignored between elections, voters might be more emphatic next time.


University of Western Australia partnership with fossil fuel companies

The University of Western Australia is facing criticism over a partnership with fossil fuel companies that promises to help the gas industry expand into remote fields that have so far been too costly to develop.

Western Australian premier Mark McGowan praised the creation of what is known as the Centre for Long Subsea Tiebacks, a partnership between the university and Chevron and Woodside, which are contributing $600,000 a year.

A statement posted on the state government and the university’s websites says the centre will focus on how to improve “tiebacks” – connections between new oil and gas fields and existing production facilities – in hostile deep-sea conditions.

It follows the establishment of other recent university-industry partnerships designed to help the state’s liquified natural gas (LNG) operations, which have grown rapidly over the past five years to be a significant employer and major export industry.

Launching the centre, McGowan said bringing more oil and gas projects online would position the state as a global energy leader. It would also mean more jobs for Western Australians. “That’s my government’s number one priority,” he said.

Alex Gardner, a professor and environmental lawyer at the University of Western Australia, said the centre was just part of what was broad backing from the university sector for the petroleum industry. He said he acknowledged universities and academics should be free to research and teach according to their choices.

But he said there did not seem to be a discussion about how the continuing expansion of the LNG industry fit within Australia’s emissions budget if it was to play its part in meeting the goals set at the UN Paris conference in 2015.

The announcement of the centre comes as Woodside leads plans to develop the long mooted Scarborough and Browse gas projects in northern WA.

Announcing the centre, Dawn Freshwater, the university’s vice-chancellor, said it fulfilled the institution’s aim of serving the community and improving people’s lives. “Not only will it enhance Perth and WA as a centre of offshore engineering excellence, it aligns with [the university’s] plans to expand and strengthen global partnerships,” she said.

Woodside’s chief executive, Peter Coleman, said: “We believe this partnership will play a crucial role in unlocking new gas resources off Western Australia’s north coast in support of our growth activities.”

Chevron’s managing director, Al Williams, said the company was proud to partner with the university on the centre.

In August, Williams announced that a carbon capture and storage project at Chevron’s Gorgon LNG development had begun operating after repeated delays stretching back to 2016. The company has previously estimated between 3.4m and 4m tonnes of carbon dioxide, about 40% of the emissions at Gorgon, could be buried each year.


The rise of solar power is jeopardising the WA energy grid, and it's a lesson for all of Australia

In Western Australia, one of the sunniest landscapes in the world, rooftop solar power has been a runaway success.

On the state's main grid, which covers Perth and the populated south-west corner of the continent, almost one in every three houses has a solar installation.

Combined, the capacity of rooftop solar on the system far exceeds the single biggest generator — an ageing 854 megawatt coal-fired power station.

But there is now so much renewable solar power being generated on the grid that those responsible for keeping the lights on warn the stability of the entire system could soon be in jeopardy.

It is a cautionary tale for the rest of the country of how the delicate balancing act that is power grid management can be severely destabilised by what experts refer to as a "dumb solar" approach.

"We talk about 'smart' this and 'smart' that these days," said energy expert Adam McHugh, an honorary research associate at Perth's Murdoch University. "Well, solar at the moment is 'dumb' in Western Australia. We need to make it smart."

An isolated solar frontier

Mr McHugh's remarks come at a time of profound change in the energy industry across the globe.

But nowhere is the change being more acutely felt than in Western Australia. Stuck out on its own at the edge of the continent, he said WA had become "a laboratory experiment in the uptake of rooftop solar". "We're at the front of the curve, the bleeding edge," Mr McHugh said.

"The technology that we're seeing being developed rapidly around the world is flowing into Western Australia at a more rapid rate, potentially … than anywhere else on the planet."

While much of the debate about the intersection of climate and energy policy is focused on the eastern states — and its national electricity market (NEM) — WA is hurtling towards a tipping point.

At heart of the state's problem is its isolation.

Unlike states such as South Australia, which has even higher levels of renewable energy, WA cannot rely on any other markets to prop it up during times of disruption to supply or demand.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), which runs WA's wholesale electricity market (WEM), said the islanded nature of the grid in WA made it particularly exposed to the technical challenges posed by solar.

AEMO chief executive Audrey Zibelman said these challenges tended to be most acute when high levels of solar output coincided with low levels of demand — typically on mild, sunny days in spring or autumn when people were not using air conditioners.

On those days, excess solar power from households and businesses spilled uncontrolled on to the system, pushing the amount of power needed from the grid to increasingly low levels.

Ms Zibelman said WA's isolation amplified this trend because the relative concentration of its solar resources meant fluctuations in supply caused by the weather had an outsized effect.

Low-power days become a big problem

The only way to manage the solar was to scale back or switch off the coal- and gas-fired power stations that were supposed to be the bedrock of the electricity system.

The problem was coal-fired plants were not designed to be quickly ramped up or down in such a way, meaning they were ill-equipped to respond to sudden fluctuations in solar production.

"What's changing in the WEM is the fact that rooftop solar is now our single largest generator," Ms Zibelman said. "That has really made a huge difference in terms of how we think about the power system.

"The concern we have for the first time in probably the history of this industry is you start thinking about sunny days during the spring or [autumn] when you don't have a lot of demand, because you don't have a lot of cooling going on.

"And that becomes an interesting issue because you have lots and lots of solar and very little demand. "We've never worried about a system around low demand. You're always worried about the highest periods of the summer.

"What we're recognising now is that the flexibility we need in the system is one [issue] that we have to think about — how do we integrate solar and storage better? And these are new problems that we have to solve."

Rolling blackouts possible within three years

In a "clarion call" earlier this year, AEMO said that if nothing was done to safeguard the grid, there was a credible danger of rolling blackouts from as early as 2022 as soaring levels of renewable energy periodically overwhelmed the system.

At worst, AEMO warned there was a "real risk" of a system-wide blackout.

It said 700MW of demand was the floor below which it would struggle to ensure that voltage and frequency levels stayed within acceptable limits. "At that point, we worry about the voltage," Ms Zibelman said.

"But also it's that [point] we worry about the other generators, because below that level you actually have demand that's smaller than the smallest generator. "So if something trips off, it's very hard to respond."


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

No comments: