From 8th to 10th of April 2015, Bradley Joyce, CEO of Teachers Health Fund in Australia, was in France and in Belgium to meet with the Education and Solidarity Network executive committee and board of directors. THF involvement in the work of the Education and Solidarity Network both in Australia and also at international level is growing every day. Here Bradley Joyce shares some of his insights with us.
To begin with, could you briefly present your organization?
Teachers Health Fund is a health fund that’s run to benefit teachers and their families as well as the broader education community, rather than investors or overseas owners. Its products and services are especially designed to suit the needs of its members drawn from the Australian education community. It provides additional services to ensure members well-being: health support (health assessments, disease management, personalized exercise programs, health information, diet and nutrition programs, life coaching and counseling etc), and also health centers (optical, dental, physiotherapy, chiropractic, remedial massage services etc)
Teachers Health Fund was established in February 1954 by a group of teachers from the New South Wales Teachers Federation. The foundation membership of in 1954 was 2,600. Today, Teachers Health Fund provides quality health insurance and service to over 280,000 Australians. It includes education union members (and others working in education who qualify), together with their immediate family members. Teachers Health Fund continues to grow with 7.5% growth per year, which is 3 times the industry average in Australia and faster than its education union partners.
What is the latest news in the health insurance sector in Australia?
The health insurance sector in Australia is very dynamic at present with much competitive activity. This is both exciting and a challenge. Over the last 10 years in Australia there has been a significant shift in the shape of the industry from one largely comprised of mutuals (not for profits) to one where 70% of the market is dominated by For Profit health insurers. In response to this shift a group of mutual/not for profit health insurers has decided to fight back and Teachers Health Fund has been a leader in this fight. On the 2nd of February, we launched a new organization called “Members Own Health Funds”. This organization represents 15 non-for profit/mutual Australian health insurers that collectively cover 20% of the insured population in Australia. The objective of coming together as a collective in this way is to have a strong voice with the government, key stakeholders and consumers of health insurance to show that there is a strong alternative to the For Profit model and the significant advantages of belonging to a not for profit/mutual health insurer.
THF has also launched a campaign in association with Australian public education unions around the country called “Members Get More”. In Australia, in order to be covered by Teachers Health Fund, education workers have to be members of education unions. The objective of this campaign is for Teachers Health Fund and education unions to target this shared audience together, and to show them all the benefits of representing jointly the interests of education workers – how powerful it can be to work together and collectively look at the interest of the same group of people. This campaign has now launched in Tasmania and will commence in the other Australian states.
Could you tell us more about THF involvement in the Education and Solidarity Network?
Teachers Health Fund has been actively participating to the Education and Solidarity Network since its creation. Recently, we’ve been involved in several important and interesting projects, such as the international inquiry on health at work for education workers and the international community of young education workers.
Teachers Health Fund believes that the Education and Solidarity Network is doing an important job in mobilizing education union members around the importance of developing and promoting solidarity-based social protection systems and developing strategies to educate and train people on solidarity-based social protection. The opportunity to promote exchange in best practice, share tools and experiences; educate, train and disseminate a culture of social protection; and create and develop mutual solidarity organisations such as in health insurance is a tangible way of demonstrating and advocating the strength of solidarity based social protection systems.
Looking to the future it is essential that membership of the Network continues to grow and representatives from education unions not currently a member of the Network become active participants and contributors to the work of the Network to ensure the sustainability of its limited resources but considerable efforts.