Private Health Insurance is increasingly becoming a luxury that many rural families can't see the value in. - Dr Ewen McPhee said.
Private Health Insurance is increasingly becoming a luxury that many rural families can't see the value in. - Dr Ewen McPhee said. Yuri Arcurs

Private health- less value for rural residents

WITH the cost of Private Health Insurance set to rise again, patients in rural areas will be getting even less value for money than ever before, the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) has warned.

RDAA president Dr Ewen McPhee said many rural and remote Australians either don't hold private health insurance (PHI) or can't use it due to limited access to private healthcare facilities in rural areas.

"PHI is increasingly becoming a luxury that many rural families can't see the value in" Dr McPhee said.

"Another hit to their budget from this next price hike is not going to be well received.

Dr McPhee said evidence showed that people in rural and remote communities are less likely to use their PHI than their city counterparts.

"In many rural areas, they will see the same doctor in the same hospital regardless of whether they are public or private patients. Consequently, many choose to stay in the public system to avoid the nasty PHI excess that slugs so many patients, as well as other significant out-of-pocket expenses," he said.

"Rural patients also have access to far fewer private healthcare services that are commonplace in the major cities, and there is no additional support via PHI for rural patients who choose to travel elsewhere to seek private healthcare.

"If you have a chronic or serious illness this adds up to a lot of money, and with the only travel assistance schemes being either federal or state government funded - and rarely, if ever, meeting the full cost of rural patients' travel and accommodation - again, there is no benefit for these patients in utilising PHI.

"One great option would be for PHI providers to offer their rural and remote customers travel and accommodation support as an alternative to fit-bits and gym memberships."

RDAA says while it notes there was a 5.1% increase in total benefits paid through PHI funds for the year to December 2016, past evidence strongly suggests that patients in urban areas will have been the key beneficiaries.

RDAA also notes that the net profit after tax for the PHI industry for the same period was up 11.5%.

Last year, RDAA participated in a rural and remote stakeholder forum held as part of a Federal Government review of private health insurance.


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