CEDA member profile: Bupa




Dr Dwayne Crombie, Managing Director of Health Insurance, Bupa


Can you tell us something about Bupa and its services?

In Australia and New Zealand, Bupa supports more than six million customers through a broad range of health and care services including health insurance, aged care, rehabilitation, dental, optical, medical, hearing and medical visa services. We employ more 22,000 people across Australia and New Zealand.

As Bupa is not listed, we are able to reinvest our profits into improving the quality of health and care services. Since 2002 we have reinvested approximately $6 billion in Australia and New Zealand, while the Bupa Health Foundation has invested over $26 million to support more than 100 health and care projects.

What is your role at Bupa and how long have you been there? 

Since 2013, I have been the Managing Director of Bupa’s Health Insurance business in Australia. Prior to joining Bupa in Australia, I led the Bupa Care Services – residential aged care – business in New Zealand. 

I am a doctor by training, and have spent my life working towards bringing better healthcare and better outcomes to the people I serve. From my days as a student elective in paediatric gastroenterology in Brisbane, to health promotion for large communities in South Auckland, to CEO of North Health and the Waitemata District Health Board in New Zealand, and leadership roles at Bupa, I have witnessed first-hand the competing pressures and perspectives in health systems. 

What do you love about your job? 

For me, health insurance is ultimately about helping people to access ways to stay or become healthier.

When I look at ways we can help our customers access the best care they can receive, in my experience no single perspective is actually that useful. It’s about connecting the dots for the sake of the customer. Our health system is in incredibly complex – and simplifying the system for Bupa customers and providing meaningful, tangible outcomes that benefit them is both one of my key challenges and also what drives me.

In your time with Bupa how has the landscape of your industry changed? 

Many Australians are now at a tipping point when it comes to healthcare – what they can afford, access and understand. A big part of Bupa’s job is making sure that our customers are empowered with the right information, at the right time, so they know more about their costs, their treatment options, and their ability to drive change in the health system. 

The biggest change for the industry has been the growing cost of healthcare, our ageing population, patients with complex conditions, and the changing federal governments and health ministers and their respective priorities and visions. 

The industry has also seen rapid improvements across medical research, new technologies and medications that are now available to patients to improve their quality of life. Even in the last ten years, treatments are now available for what would have previously been considered a terminal illness.

What are some of the challenges facing your industry and how is Bupa rising to them? 

There is a lot of commentary around the affordability and value for money of health insurance. What is often forgotten is that an increase in health insurance premiums is a reflection of the increase of the cost of healthcare. We recognise that the affordability tipping point has been reached and we’re determined to help do something about it, both by reducing our costs, pushing for reform across the health system and by changing models of care. This is our greatest challenge.

Australians expect private health insurers to play the biggest role in combatting the nation’s rising healthcare costs, which is identified as the single most important factor for improving the health and care system as a whole.

We are committed to do this, but there is also an interesting conundrum with this. People hold insurers most accountable for costs, yet in our health system, medical specialists and hospitals set the fees while insurers and government are funders of the system. There has been a lack of accountability from across the health sector when addressing these costs. Australians are now turning to private health funds to really lead the charge around cost innovation on their behalf.

This means bringing together governments, hospitals, doctors and our networks to tackle these unsustainable costs. It also means working with medical specialists to reduce out of pocket expenses for health care.  

This has also led to us tackling the issue of medical device costs such as pacemakers and ceramic hips and knees.

And while addressing cost is critical to the future of healthcare, this needs to be balanced by Australians not wanting cost to impact their quality of life or life expectancy. The challenge presented to the sector and private health insurers in particular is how are we going to achieve greater collaboration to meet the expectations of a public equally concerned about improved quality of life, increased life expectancy and reduced cost?

Is there a particular CEDA event or speaker you have enjoyed?  

Bupa sponsored the CEDA event on health reform and out-of-pocket costs, which featured a keynote address from Professor Brendan Murphy, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, about the options to address growing out-of-pocket medical costs, and how transparency and consumer choice can be improved in Australia’s health system.

Last year (2017), then Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, announced wide-ranging private health reforms, including the establishment of a new expert committee to consider options to improve the transparency of medical out-of-pocket costs. Professor Murphy is the Chair of this Ministerial Advisory Committee and spoke at the CEDA event about the insights on the committee’s work and future options for reform. This was a valuable event and allowed us to gain insight into the Committee’s work.

How does Bupa engage with CEDA? 

We have sponsored, attended and spoken at various CEDA events that are relevant to our business as a leading health company in Australia. We’ve also used it as platform to launch thought leadership around health reform and accountability, while also connecting with experts across a variety of business areas.