CANBERRA – [AAP]
The federal government has trumpeted ‘millions of Australians are set to have more cash in their pockets this year as health insurance premium hikes hit a four-year low’.
But the ABC has revealed that the increases will still be three times higher than the cost of living index.
Premiums will increase an average of 5.59 per cent from April 1, down from almost 6.2 per cent last year.
It comes after health minister Sussan Ley stepped in, asking health insurers in January to either lower their premium increases or justify the hikes.
Ms Ley said 20 health funds had resubmitted a lower increase, with some cutting back as much as 1.5 per cent, easing costs for more than 93 per cent of Australians with private health cover.
Families and couples with a combined hospital and general treatment policy will on average ‘save’ up to $166 while singles will pay up to $83 less when compared with the original premium requests by insurers for 2016.
‘Consumers will be $125 million better off as a direct result of our request for insurers to resubmit lower premiums,’ Ms Ley said.
She said Wednesday’s announcement was the first step in a broader overhaul of private health insurance, in a bid to ‘deliver lasting savings for consumers’.
A government survey on private health insurance last year received more than 40,000 responses, with the majority concerned about rising premiums and value for money from policies..
Ms Ley said the government was looking at greater transparency around health policies, targeting so-called ‘junk’ policies, confusing terminology and hidden payments.
It’s also working to change the way private health insurers are required to pay for medical devices like pacemakers, with savings expected to begin flowing to consumers from next year.
Under existing rules, a pacemaker for a private patient can cost the insurer $43,000 compared with $17,000 if they were treated as a public patient, which drives premiums higher.
‘The current premium approvals process isn’t providing the right checks and balances to ensure consumers get the best deal every year and there are clearly significant additional costs and barriers blocking larger premium savings from being passed on,’ she said.
‘I know every health insurance premium increase is hard on the household budget and we’re committed to taking the pressure off price rises for consumers through sensible and balanced reforms.’
PREMIUM INCREASES BY THE BIGGEST FUNDS IN 2016
Medibank – 5.64pct (compared with 6.59pct in 2015)
Bupa – 5.69pct (6.50pct)
HCF – 5.42pct (6.50pct)
NIB – 5.55pct (6.55pct)
HBF – 4.94pct (5.96pct)
Industry average – 5.59pct (6.18pct)