• Publication Date: November 3, 2016
  • EAN: 9781876861148
  • 200 pages; 6" x 8⅝"
Filed Under: Insurance; Legal History

Health Insurance in Regional Australia

The History of Westfund


Product Description

Westfund Health Insurance is a regional success story and a remarkable national story. Established in 1953, it was forged by mutual principles and its development is closely linked with Lithgow’s rich industrial history and local community.

The longevity, resilience and competitive advantage of this not-for-profit regional health insurer in the face of changing business conditions and government regulation is thanks in large part to the people who make up the Westfund team and the communities they serve.

Written by a team of highly experienced academics comprised of Harry Knowles, Greg Patmore and Mark Westcott, Health Insurance in Regional Australia: The History of Westfund examines the growth and development of Westfund in the context of broader developments in health legislation and policy.

The history of Westfund and the high profile it enjoys today in regional New South Wales and Queensland highlight its value in delivering health insurance and advocating for better healthcare infrastructure in regional Australia.

List of Tables and Figures
List of Illustrations

1. Introduction
2. Before Westfund
3. The Foundation and Early Years: 1953–1983
4. 1983–1996
5. 1996–2007
6. Westfund since 2007
7. Conclusion


The history of Australian health services in Australia is dominated by a narrative of state action. While the private sector remains responsible for around one third of health finance (a large proportion as out of pocket payments), private health insurance continues to shape access to hospital services. This public-private mix has received little attention from historians, who remain fixated by the narrative of the growth of government responsibility. Most analysis has focused on the regressive effects of private funding on access to the system – and attitudes towards private health funds are one of the few areas where left-right partisan attitudes are still marked. This history of Westfund, a small private health fund based in the New South Wales mining district around Lithgow, can be welcomed for several reasons. It provides invaluable information to a variety of audiences. Westfund was founded in 1953, but emerged from a long history of mutual action in coalmining communities, including benefit societies such as the Western Districts Mineworkers Mutual Fund. Throughout its history, this small mutual fund has retained close relationship with mining trade unionism. Starting with a picture of the early development of the Lithgow district, the book fleshes out the local networks from which Westfund emerged. From its inception, community control and the union link have remained the main basis of membership expansion, with a major expansion into the Queensland coal industry during the recent mining boom. The authors provide a detailed and fascinating account of the tensions that emerged between these community links and stability of very longterm management teams, and the new demands placed on professionalism and corporate accountability in a complex financial institution. – James Gillespie, Labour History, May 2018

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