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Terms of reference

1.1 The matter was originally referred to the Committee by the Senate on 11 May 1995, following passage of the Health Legislation (Private Health Insurance Reform) Amendment Act 1995, [1] for inquiry and report on or before 1 July 1996. The full terms of reference were for the Committee to undertake:

1.2 Following the March 1996 election, the Committee reported to the Senate on 30 May 1996 that it proposed to continue the inquiry in the 38th Parliament and recommended that the Senate agree to the Committee's continuation of the inquiry to report by 19 September 1996. The Senate agreed to the Committee's recommendation. [3]


Conduct of the inquiry

1.3 Major provisions of the Health Legislation (Private Health Insurance Reform) Amendment Act 1995 (the Reform Act) did not become operative until October 1995, and consequently the previous Committee only had the opportunity to undertake preliminary work on the inquiry before the general election was called in January 1996.

1.4 To assist with this preliminary work the Committee was briefed by officers from the former Department of Human Services and Health in November 1995 on work that had been performed by the Department, and that which was currently being undertaken, following the introduction of the Reform Act. The Committee was also provided with updated information on developments relating to health insurance matters resulting from other amendments in the Reform Act.

1.5 Following the Senate's approval to continue with the inquiry, the Committee invited submissions from all parties involved with, or having a representative interest in private health insurance. Considerable interest was expressed in the inquiry with fifty-nine submissions being received, including many submissions from organisations and individuals who had made previous representations to the Committee during the course of its March 1995 inquiry into the Health Legislation (Private Health Insurance Reform) Amendment Bill 1994.

1.6 Copies of submissions of a non-confidential nature were published by the Committee as separate volumes. A listing of the organisations and individuals who made a submission to the Committee's inquiry are listed in Appendix 1.

1.7 The Committee held two days of public hearings into the inquiry in Sydney and Canberra on 24 and 25 July 1996 respectively. Witnesses who gave evidence at the hearings are listed in Appendix 2. A number of additional papers were tabled at the hearings and further evidence was provided to the Committee in answer to questions taken on notice following the hearings. The Committee authorised the publication of this additional information which has also been tabled in the Senate as a separate volume accompanying the submissions and transcripts of evidence.

1.8 In conducting the inquiry the Committee decided to focus upon a number of issues within the general terms of reference, including:

1.9 Whilst the Committee's task was limited to monitoring the implementation and operation of the Reform Act during the first 12 months following its enactment, many organisations took the opportunity of commenting in their submissions on broader issues relating to private health insurance arrangements and the delivery of health services generally. The Committee decided that, as the operation of the Reform Act is inextricably tied into these broader issues, it would also give due consideration to these issues by dividing the inquiry into two parts. Firstly, the Committee would report to the Senate on the more immediate issues concerning the implementation and operation of the Reform Act. Secondly, the Committee would focus on the broader issues which were commented upon in submissions and during the course of the inquiry and report to the Senate before the end of 1996.

1.10 The broader issues to be considered by the Committee in the second stage of its inquiry include:

1.11 To ensure that all those who provided submissions to the inquiry were given an opportunity to comment on the above issues, the Committee invited organisations and individuals to provide a supplementary submission to address these broader issues, or to elaborate on comments made in their initial submission which may have addressed any or all of these issues.



1.12 The Committee expresses its appreciation to those who made submissions, provided additional material, or gave evidence to the inquiry.

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[1] Act No.41 of 1995; date of Assent: 29 May 1995.

[2] Now the Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS).

[3] Senate Hansard, 30 May 1996, p.1383.