A SMART national health insurance system focused on people with chronic health problems is essential to avoid massive rises in health costs, a report says.
The report out on Monday from Victoria University's Australian Health Policy Collaboration called for reforms to ensure people got the chronic health care they needed without costing too much.
As Health Minister Sussan Ley completes major consultations on the private health insurance industry, the report calls on the government to create a "blended insurance model", focused on preventing chronic health problems, rather than treating them.
The AHPC research looked at health insurance in several countries.
It looked at three models; a taxpayer-funded insurance system, a mandatory private insurance model with industry funding and a private system with "regulated competition".
The third option provided the "foundation components of a universal and sustainable health insurance model designed to provide for chronic health conditions".
AHPC director Rosemary Calder said Australia's current health policies were failing about a quarter of the population.
She said those with preventable diseases and chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke were "growing by the day".
In 2011 the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found chronic disease was the leading cause of disability, illness and death - accounting for 90% of deaths that year - linked to four key risk factors: smoking, physical inactivity, poor nutrition and harmful alcohol use.
"Without an aggressive focus on reducing preventable illness and improving chronic disease management, governments' fears of increasing health costs will be realised," Ms Calder said.
The problems in the health system, she said, were largely due to funding and service models focused on "treatment instead of preventable care".
"It seems that for some Australians, access to preventative health care is an optional extra, and being chronically ill is an acceptable state. We need this to change."
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