On edge as we wait for news of this year's private health insurance premium increases, which seem almost unavoidable.
On edge as we wait for news of this year's private health insurance premium increases, which seem almost unavoidable.

Private health insurance costs look set to rise

BASED on the last three years of private health insurance premium increases and with pressure mounting from insurers, another increase looks set to happen.

Insurers had to submit any revised premium increases to the Federal Government by Monday's deadline, ahead of the scheduled April 1 announcements.

As Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced Greg Hunt as his replacement Health Minister after Sussan Ley's controversial resignation last week, discussion on premium increases and health reforms are rife.

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In October, Ms Ley promised that the Private Health Insurance Advisory Committee would look at the government's election campaign commitments which detailed delivering, "certainty and transparency with the gold, silver, bronze valued products so that that murky world of what am I covered for, and how do I know what my out of pocket costs will be? Is completely taken away and you can, as a consumer, be guaranteed that value for money".

The big question now is will the Federal Government succeed in keeping premium costs stable or will an increase occur?

The answer isn't likely to be available before April and will be dependent on the appointment of the new minister.

Private health insurers are arguing that to maintain their level of service, an increase in premiums is necessary as healthcare costs continue to grow.

The Private Health Insurance Ombudsman narrows down these reasons for annual price rises to the cost of hospital, medical and healthcare-related expenses rises, and an ageing population increasing its reliance on services and equipment.

Private Health Australia's chief executive officer Dr Rachel David argues the value of health insurance.

"Health funds are consistently paying out the highest percentage of the premium back to customers of all insurance types, an average of 86c in the dollar," she said.

"This compares with 67c for property insurance and 62c for general insurance."

In addition to the potential increase in premiums, Australians were told under Ms Ley's tutorship to expect private healthcare changes in the Prostheses Benefit List, new PBS listings for cancer patients and asthma sufferers, new funding arrangements for dental services and categorising hospital products into gold/ silver/ bronze tiers according to exclusions and excesses. 


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