Australians continue to see value in private hospital treatment despite a decline in people with health insurance, according to the latest data.
There were 3.73 million episodes of care in private hospitals in the 12 months ending 31 March 2020, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority said in its quarterly private health insurance report.
That represents a 1.1 percent increase on the previous year, though the number of insured people dropped by almost 10,000 in the quarter and 23,000 in 12 months.
“We know Australians have been using their insurance to get the care they need. They value the private hospital system allowing them to access care at a time that suits them, with the doctor of their choice,” Australian Private Hospitals Association CEO Michael Roff said.
However, he warned that the last few months have been “extremely challenging” for the sector, with private hospital resources having been made available for COVID-19 pandemic-related services.
“Due to the restrictions on elective surgery, many insured patients have been unable to access the essential surgery they require.
“The pandemic has made it clear to all the fundamental value proposition of private health insurance is providing access to private hospitals,” Mr Roff said.
With surgical services starting to return sooner than expected, Mr Roff called on health insurance companies “to remember what their product is really about”.
“They need to ensure every Australian with health insurance has a product that will cover them for the services they need in a private hospital.
“The next challenge is ensuring we can transition back to normal levels of service and beyond, to clear the backlog of surgery built up in both the public and private sectors,” he said.