The Insider: Hisham El-Ansary FCPA

Director of Strategy and Managing Director, Bupa Health Services.

"In Australia we’re fortunate to have a health system that’s the envy of the world, and one of the key tenets of its success is its mix of public and private healthcare. The private sector plays an integral role in the Australian health system, complementing public services and improving people’s access and choices for healthcare.

I joined Bupa as chief financial officer in 2008 to help drive the integration of its A$2.4 billion acquisition of MBF [the merger created Australia’s largest privately owned health insurer]. Before that, I was CFO at retailer Myer.

I was attracted to the health industry because it was clearly going to be a growth sector and one that would play an increasingly important role in people’s lives.

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Both technological innovation and the ageing of the population are increasing the demand for healthcare services. It’s presenting a major challenge. And with pressure building on public spending, the private sector is increasingly critical in helping governments manage costs.

Hisham El-Ansary FCPA | Photo: Damien Pleming

Hisham El-Ansary FCPA | Photo: Damien Pleming

An important trend we’ve seen emerge in recent years is a broadening of the services being offered to consumers by private insurers like ours, which were traditionally exclusively health insurance providers. In Australia, Bupa is now involved in residential aged care, workplace health and chronic disease management, as well as providing health coaching, dental and optical services.

"We’d be keen to see the reform agenda for our sector move beyond limited changes to existing regulatory incentives."

Essentially, our sector is moving from its traditional “insurance” roots to being part of a broad-based healthcare industry that is looking to support its customers’ health throughout their lives.

If you look at the more recent merger and acquisition activity in the sector, it has been focused in adjacent health service areas. So, for instance, in 2013 Bupa acquired Dental Corporation, which has more than 200 clinics and 600 dentists across Australia and New Zealand. In the last few years, I’ve also led company acquisitions in areas such as optical services and corporate wellness.

The pressure on Australia’s health system will just continue to grow and we need to ensure that Australians continue to have access to the affordable, high-quality healthcare that we all expect and deserve. We’re in an environment where demand for health services is increasing, our population is ageing, and the evolution of health technology continues to improve outcomes but also drive up costs. Given that scenario, the private sector’s role in supporting government across the full breadth of the health system will only become more vital.

We’d be keen to see the reform agenda for our sector move beyond limited changes to existing regulatory incentives, towards a broad-ranging discussion that explores the possibility of using the skills and expertise of the private sector to help tackle the big challenges we all face in the health system more generally."

Trick of the trade

"Private hospitals treated more than half of all admitted hospital patients and performed 58 per cent of all surgeries in 2011-12, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. In the 12 months to 30 September 2013, private insurers paid out more than A$15.7 billion to cover members’ healthcare. More than 55 per cent of Australians have some form of health insurance, according to the Private Health Insurance Administration Council."

This article is from the March 2014 issue of INTHEBLACK.

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