The Health News Australia February 19 2018

  • HBF has struck a $4 billion dollar merger with a big east coast private health insurer, saying the success of the tie-up will be measured on the cost of its premiums next year. Under a deal to be confirmed this morning, HBF plans to join forces with Sydney-based HCF to create a more powerful third force in private health insurance behind Bupa and Medibank Private. HBF and HCF would retain their individual identities after the merger and continue to be run by their own management teams, at least for the time being, under a new umbrella company guided by a common board of directors.
  • People with acute and chronic pain say they are struggling to get the help they need since codeine-related medication was taken off pharmacy shelves. In an attempt to stop abuse, addiction and problematic side-effects, codeine is now only available with a prescription. Some opioid or codeine users had been preparing for the change, but many said weaning off and finding alternatives had been difficult.
  • Older Australians will be given free, stronger flu vaccinations by the federal government in an effort to prevent another deadly outbreak. More than one thousand one hundred people across Australia died from the flu last year, with most of them over the age of 65. The stronger vaccine will be delivered in a $31 million dollar program. FluAd and FluZone will be free for over 65s when the supply arrives in Australia in April.

News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 19th of February 2018. Read by Tabetha Moreto.

https://thewest.com.au/business/mergers-and-acquisitions/wa-insurer-hbf-flags-lower-cost-health-premiums-in-4b-merger-tick-with-east-coasts-hcf-ng-b88748695z

HBF has struck a four billion dollar merger with a big east coast private health insurer, saying the success of the tie-up will be measured on the cost of its premiums next year. Under a deal to be confirmed this morning, HBF plans to join forces with Sydney-based HCF to create a more powerful third force in private health insurance behind Bupa and Medibank Private. HBF and HCF would retain their individual identities after the merger and continue to be run by their own management teams, at least for the time being, under a new umbrella company guided by a common board of directors.

Together, the two not-for-profit insurers would have two point five million members, or policyholders, and four billion dollars in assets.HBF, Western Australia’s biggest private health insurer with about fifty four percent of the State market, and HCF see the savings generated by sharing services and costs across advertising, IT and procurement being invested back into minimising increases in health premiums.

HBF chief executive John Van Der Wielen told The West Australian said: “Our members have told me loud and clear they want lower premiums and better benefits.”
He said HBF and HCF were already ahead of their competition after holding this year’s premium increases at four percent or less.
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The HCF merger would give it more financial muscle to push deeper into markets such as Victoria and South Australia, and perhaps to follow its rivals by buying into medical, dental, optical and aged care businesses.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-16/chronic-pain-sufferers-struggle-without-codeine/9454830

People with acute and chronic pain say they are struggling to get the help they need since codeine-related medication was taken off pharmacy shelves. In an attempt to stop abuse, addiction and problematic side-effects, codeine is now only available with a prescription. Some opioid or codeine users had been preparing for the change, but many said weaning off and finding alternatives had been difficult.
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Doctor Charlotte Johnston, a chronic pain specialist behind the removal of codeine from the shelves, said she was worried there was not enough support out there for patients.

Doctor Johnston added:  “An initial consultation with someone with chronic pain takes a whole hour … and this is generally out of the reach of most practitioners.” To see a pain specialist a patient needs to obtain a general practitioners referral, which usually has a waiting period of at least a month — and of course, it costs money.
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She said many chronic pain sufferers were dealing with underlying health problems, and access to specialist care to deal with that was limited and expensive. The Pharmacy Guild of Australia said it was not surprised patients had complained about a problem with accessing pain medication. Anthony Tassone, from the guild’s Victorian branch, said not only had there been delays in patients getting prescriptions, but the supply was simply not there.
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But the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners said its members had not seen a boost in demand for codeine.
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The Federal Government said it could do more to address the needs of chronic pain sufferers.
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/18/free-stronger-flu-vaccine-for-older-australians-after-2017s-deadly-outbreak

Older Australians will be given free, stronger flu vaccinations by the federal government in an effort to prevent another deadly outbreak. More than one thousand one hundred people across Australia died from the flu last year, with most of them over the age of sixty five. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, told the Nine Network on Sunday: “It was a horror flu season last year, a mutation in the flu strain, that led to some tragedies with seniors.”

The stronger vaccine will be delivered in a thirty one million dollar program. FluAd and FluZone will be free for over sixty fives when the supply arrives in Australia in April.

The chief medical officer for the Australian government, Brendan Murphy said that last year’s flu season was deadly because the elderly immune response to the vaccine had been waning in recent years and the A-strain of the flu mutated mid-season, leaving even vaccinated people vulnerable.

The new vaccines were aimed at improving the response in elderly people in two ways. Murphy said: “One of them has more of the killed-virus antigen in it, that produces a stronger immune response, and the other one has a standard amount of the antigen but has … a chemical which tickles up the immune system to respond better.”

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