A hospital without patients and an insurance company without sick people — both make for a good bottom line.
Labor MP Matt Thistlethwaite today made a link to the 1980s British TV series Yes, Minister today when questioning Commonwealth Bank CEO Ian Narev in a parliamentary committee hearing over the Comminsure scandal in which seriously ill customers were denied insurance payouts.
An expert report by Deloitte, commissioned by Comminsure, could not identify any systemic issues relating to declined claims.
However, today Thistlethwaite described the investigation as a cover-up which didn’t bother to talk to the victims.
In the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, he grilled Narev on how Deloitte ran the investigation.
Thistlethwaite: “How many victims and customers were interviewed for this?”
Narev: “Deloitte had unfettered access to all sorts of customer records, customer emails … medical reports.”
Thistlethwaite: “People were being denied claims, unfairly in their view. They felt aggrieved. How many of those people, your customers, were interviewed by Deloitte?”
Narev replied that this was deemed “not necessary” because of the deep access to documents related to the cases. He described the report as “robust” and “independent”.
Thistlethwaite: “It’s been reported that no customers were interviewed. That’s true isn’t it?”
Thistlethwaite: “Here you have got a report based on victims that has arisen because victims were denied claims but you don’t interview any victims, you don’t interview any customers. It doesn’t make sense.”
Narev: “It does makes sense given the nature of the insurance business.”
Thistlethwaite: “Have you ever seen Yes, Minister? This case reminds me of Jim Hacker as the minister for health visiting a hospital with no patients. St Edwards, I think it was called. You should call this report the St Edwards report. It’s ridiculous that you didn’t interview any customers or victims. It beggars belief.”
Narev was also questioned about the dismissal of Dr Ben Koh, the bank’s chief medical officer, in August 2015 amid allegations doctors had been pressured to change assessments to avoid the bank having to make insurance payouts.
Thistlethwaite: “Ben Koh had advised that the definition (of heart attack) was outdated. Then Dr Ben Koh does an audit of 50 of the cases and finds that the wrong definition is being used to deny hard working Australians legitimate claims. He’s blown the whistle on this and for that you sack him.”
Narev: “I want to make it clear Dr Koh was sacked for breaching privacy of clients.”
Thistlethwaite: “Come on, come on. You found a convenient reason to sack him because he’d blown the whistle on what had gone on in your organisation. That’s the truth.”
Narev: “It’s very clear from the independent reviews that the facts of the matter are very significantly at odds with the allegations made by Dr Koh.”
Thistlethwaite: “Ben Koh (former chief medical officer) says you sacked him for sending emails to his home address when everyone else in the division was doing the same thing. He was given permission to do that by his superior because his work laptop wouldn’t work at home.”
Narev: “We’ll see who’s version the court prefers when the proceedings are finished.”