Access to private hospitals is the main reason Australians buy or maintain their private health insurance, new data shows.
The latest Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) figures show private health insurance participation is steady, but episodes of care in private hospitals have increased.
Australian Private Hospitals Association CEO Mr Michael Roff said this is a clear indication of the importance accessing private hospitals is to Australians.
“It is clear from these numbers that Australians place a high value on the fast access to high quality care provided by private hospitals,” Mr Roff said.
He said a concerning aspect of the APRA data was the big jump (12 percent in just three months) in cheap, low-value policies that exclude certain services.
“Australians are being encouraged to take out low-value, high exclusion products to keep their premiums low, but they may not be aware this also reduces their access to care when they need it. The problem is we just don’t know which services are being excluded.”
Meanwhile, Shadow Minister for Health Catherine King has chastised private health insurers for continuing to ‘’rake in bumper profits”.
“The insurers took in more than $24 billion in revenue from premiums in the year to September 2018, but paid out only $20.4 billion in benefits.
“That means the insurers are pocketing $3.6 billion more than they’re paying out in benefits,” Ms King said.
Mr Roff said the numbers show the Federal Government’s reforms to private health insurance cannot come soon enough.
“By 2020 all private health insurance products are moving to the Gold, Silver, Bronze, Basic product categories, the transition period for this begins in April next year.
“APHA has long campaigned for private health insurance that is easy to understand and compare. When Australians can see clearly that, for example, their cataract surgery is only covered in the Gold category and their current insurance is Silver, then they can make an informed choice to change their cover.
“This is a much better situation than the current one where private hospitals have to tell vulnerable patients their insurance does not cover them for the procedure they need.
“But until the reforms are implemented, people need to be very careful about which services are excluded, and they should review their policy to ensure they are covered for services they might need in a private hospital, and not just take what their health fund or a website tells them is a cheaper policy,” Mr Roff said.