Private health insurance
(Image: Unsplash/Marcelo Leal)

The debate over private health insurance has been stuck in a Kabuki-like ritual for the last few years.

PHI premiums inevitably rise much faster than inflation and wages, more young people inevitably abandon PHI or drop to a lower level of cover, PHI companies inevitably lament the rapidly rising costs they have to bear in health, and the government inevitably talks about how it has got premium increases down to their lowest level in x years, despite them still growing at a multiple of CPI. Rinse, repeat.

The Grattan Institute's Stephen Duckett, the country's best health economist, has valiantly tried to break the debate out of this rut with a new working paper that tries to return to first principles about PHI and why we support it with billions of taxpayer dollars and strict regulation.