Australian Medical Association president Professor Brian Owler has labelled Medibank Private as out of touch and offered to brief the Prime Minister on its dispute with Calvary Health Care..
His comments come after a last-gasp effort to renew a contract between Australia's largest health insurer, Medibank Private, and Calvary Health Care failed at mediation on Thursday.
The breakdown in mediation means thousands of ACT patients may be forced to pay more for hospital care unless the two parties can reach a final agreement before August 31.
In July, Medibank Private initiated termination proceedings after months of unsuccessful negotiations and a disagreement about quality criteria and market rates.
But Professor Owler said Medibank Private had used aggressive behaviour to negotiate new contracts with private hospitals and to avoid paying benefits for members.
"It is unfortunate that other insurers, including Bupa and NIB, have come out in support of Medibank Private's inappropriate behaviour," he said.
Medibank executive general manager Dr Andrew Wilson said Calvary had been asking for payments in excess of other comparable hospitals while not being willing to improve the healthcare experience for members.
"Calvary has also been unwilling to agree a number of measures designed to reduce the unfortunate mistakes sometimes occurring in hospitals that result in poor healthcare outcomes for our members and are costly for the overall health system," he said.
But Professor Owler dismissed these claims and said Medibank had confused mistakes with known complications.
"They are ignoring the fact that doctors work on improving the quality of healthcare every hour of every day of their working lives. That is our job. That is our vocation," he said.
Around 4700 Medibank Private members used the territory's Calvary hospitals last year, at Bruce and John James. There are no Medibank-contracted alternative hospitals for obstetrics and psychiatry.
The health insurer was sold by the federal government in a $5.7 billion float last year.
Professor Owler said that Medibank Private had ignored the fact quality standards were independently assessed by accreditation agencies like the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a former health minister, steered clear of the issue when asked about the dispute while travelling in Tasmania.
"This is perhaps a local issue that I'm not familiar with," he said.
"The important thing is that we have access to affordable and accessible health services and while inevitably from time to time there will be things that cause some contention, it's a good system and it's getting better all the time," he said.
Professor Owler said the comments were disappointing and displayed a lack of understanding and he offered to brief the Prime Minister on the matter.
"Hopefully he will be brought up to speed quickly," he said.
The National Association of Specialist Obstetricians and Gynaecologists also raised concerns about Medicare's negotiation stance and the prospect of the health insurer not covering the death of a mother in childbirth at a Calvary hospital.
"On top of the grief of such a terrible situation, we find now that Calvary Hospital is being put in the horrendous situation of not being insured and there are questions now about the liability of the attending doctors," said association president Dr Mike Aitken.