Major parties commit to private health insurance reform

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Both major parties have committed to ending Australia’s ‘public hospital only’ health policies which cost Australians thousands of dollars in premium costs, but provides the same access to care as Medicare does for free.

The Liberal party had already committed to making the change, while the ALP announced it would also put paid to the junk policies on Sunday.

Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) CEO Michael Roff has welcomed the move, saying it was a win for Australian consumers.

“These policies are called ‘junk’ for a reason – Australians cannot access the high quality care from a private hospital through these health insurance policies.”

However, he cautioned against the move to freeze indexation of the rebate for 10 years, which could damage affordability of policies.

“We don’t encourage any policy that will limit Australians’ access to care, whether that’s a payment barrier or an affordability barrier.”

Mr Roff said while the bipartisan commitment to dropping junk policies was welcome, there was still a great deal of work to do to improve private health insurance in Australia.

“We want more action on information provided to consumers from health funds. Too many Australians are buying policies written in jargon that do not spell out which services are excluded from cover.

“Too often it is the private hospital staff who have to deliver the heartbreaking news to a patient that they are not covered for a procedure. And this is when the patient is unwell and vulnerable. There is a better way to ensure Australians know what they are paying for with private health insurance.

“Plain English private health insurance policies, clear descriptions of what policies cover and what they don’t so people know the value of the product they are buying. Data from an APHA survey from 2015 shows that 39% of Australians don’t know if their private health policy has any cover exclusions. Those who do know they have exclusions, almost a third could not name the services that are not covered.

“It is clear that while both major parties have committed to making some changes to private health insurance, there is still a long way to go before Australians are given a fair go when assessing their health cover,” Mr Roff said.

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