Health insurance deadline looms and no sign of reform

Crunch time for thousands of young people comes the day before polling day.  That’s the annual deadline to sign up for health insurance and it comes as private cover is beset by frustration and confusion, the Consumers Health Forum says.

Australians who have turned or are about to turn 31 must take out health insurance by 1 July or face premium penalties rising by two per cent a year if they  sign up later in life.

“This is becoming an  increasingly fraught decision for people at this point in their lives given the steadily increasing cost of health insurance, and when they may already be saddled with HECS bills, high mortgages and a growing family,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“Australians are already facing the prospect of rising out of pocket costs across the health sector with the risk of a breakout in GP and diagnostic gap fees and a $5 rise in the co-payment for prescribed medicines.

“Healthcare consumers are worried about the cost of private health insurance. This was clearly demonstrated by 40,000 people completing the Government’s survey last year. Not only has the Government not released the full results of that survey but it has not released any plan to deal with what it has acknowledged is an area of health in need of significant reform.

 “CHF urges all parties to release their plans for health insurance before the election so that all the community, not only 30 year olds, can make better informed decisions on what cover they need.

 “The Consumers Health Forum has submitted to the Health Minister our proposal to stimulate a better deal for health insurance.   A centrepiece of the CHF plan is to use the health insurance rebate to incentivise health funds to put out comprehensive and comparable policies so that consumers are no longer forced to choose from a mind-numbing array of policy variables, restrictions and exclusions in fine print.

“Junk or non-qualifying policies would not be eligible for the rebate. The rebate now costs the taxpayers $6 billion a year and this is set to rise to over $7 billion by the end of the forward estimates period. We want it to deliver better value for money.

“We need a fresh consumer-focused vision for our health system, as called for in a report the Consumers Health Forum and The George Institute issued recently as a result of roundtable talks involving 35 health experts.  

“The Government talks of an “economic  plan”.  We need a health plan for public and private health care from both parties that reflects 21st century realities.

 “The Consumers Health Forum will outline our vision for Australian healthcare in the election platform we will submit to all parties in early June."



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Mark Metherell
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