The latest data shows annual growth in Australians covered by private health insurance sitting at a 10 year low, with little on the horizon to end the steady fall.
There are now 11.3 million Australians covered for hospital treatment according to Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) data from March 2016, keeping the proportion of people covered at 47.2%.
However, Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) CEO Mr Michael Roff says increasing numbers of people are buying insurance that does not cover them for all their care needs or are choosing to pay an excess or co-payment on cover.
“APHA research and anecdotal evidence suggests that people are buying policies without adequate cover – with elements of cover excluded – without really understanding what they are purchasing.
“This puts private hospitals in the unenviable position of having to tell patients, often at their most vulnerable, that their insurance does not cover them for a needed procedure.
“Excesses or co-payments are another way consumers are managing the cost of their health insurance premiums. Excess and co-payment options have been steadily increasing in popularity since 2007 and now sit at more than 80 percent of policies.”
Mr Roff said the data also showed that more family (multi-person) policies have exclusions than ever before, which may mean not all members of a family will get the care they need through the private system.
“Australians pay for private health insurance to access care without having to sit on a waiting list, for peace of mind that they will get high quality care delivered by the country’s best doctors.
“Unfortunately there is a game of smoke and mirrors going on when it comes to addressing what a policy covers and too many Australians find it confusing, give up and hope for the best. It very rarely works out in their favour.”
Mr Roff said he hoped the bi-partisan agreement to end public hospital only ‘junk’ policies would be acted on swiftly in the new parliament and warned that broader private health insurance reform could not be forgotten when the parliament resumes.
“We are now just over six months away from the next premium increase announcement, further inaction will only lead to more Australians missing out and putting extra pressure on the public health system,” Mr Roff said.