Govt takes aim at health fund cost

Sunshine Coast Daily - - NEWS NATION - Charis Chang News Corp

THE Fed­eral Health Min­is­ter claims an over­haul of the pri­vate health in­sur­ance sys­tem will lead to cheaper premi­ums and eas­ier ac­cess to men­tal health care.

Health Min­is­ter Greg Hunt an­nounced a ma­jor shake-up of the sys­tem yes­ter­day, with those un­der 30 the big­gest ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

Young peo­ple are be­ing tar­geted as they are gen­er­ally healthy and less likely to claim.

“The more young peo­ple you have in the sys­tem, the lower the av­er­age cost of premi­ums for ev­ery­body,” Mr Hunt told ABC TV.

Health fund mem­ber­ship has been fall­ing by about 10,000 peo­ple a month be­cause of pre­mium rises that have over­taken the in­fla­tion rate.

Premi­ums have risen an av­er­age of 5.6% a year since 2010.

Mr Hunt re­fused to put a fig­ure on how much that would fall but the hope is to get it down to about 3%.

“I’m work­ing with the pri­vate health in­sur­ers to help drive down pre­mium pres­sures and they have guar­an­teed in writ­ing they will pass through all of the cost sav­ings,” he said.

An agree­ment with mak­ers of hip and knee pros­the­ses and car­diac de­vices would save in­sur­ers about $1 bil­lion over the next four years.

Rachel David, CEO of the health fund peak body Pri­vate Health­care Aus­tralia, said that was ex­pected to cut pre­mium in­creases by about 1% a year.

Mr Hunt claimed it was the big­gest pri­vate health in­sur­ance re­form in 15 years and was just the first round.

Aus­tralian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Michael Gan­non said the move wouldn’t solve the is­sue of af­ford­abil­ity, but it was a step in the right di­rec­tion.

“The big­gest prob­lem in the af­ford­abil­ity of pri­vate health in­sur­ance is the amount that’s go­ing into the pock­ets of the for-profit in­sur­ers,” he told ABC ra­dio.

“We need se­ri­ous re­form which ad­dresses the sim­ple fact that (health­care) costs will con­tinue to in­crease year on year.”

The changes will make poli­cies cheaper for young peo­ple by in­tro­duc­ing a pre­mium dis­count worth 2% per year for each year they be­long to a health fund be­fore turn­ing 30, up to a max­i­mum of 10%. This will be phased out grad­u­ally by the time they turn 40.

Other changes in­clude:

■ Re­bates for a large range of un­proven “nat­u­ral ther­a­pies” will be banned in­clud­ing Alexan­der tech­nique, aro­mather­apy, Bowen ther­apy, Buteyko, Feldenkrais, herbal­ism, home­opa­thy, iri­dol­ogy, ki­ne­si­ol­ogy, natur­opa­thy, Pi­lates, re­flex­ol­ogy, Rolf­ing, shi­atsu, tai chi and yoga.

■ Travel and ac­com­mo­da­tion ben­e­fits will be in­cluded un­der hospi­tal cover for those tak­ing up a new ru­ral health prod­uct.

■ The cap on ex­cesses (the ex­tra money peo­ple agree to pay if they go to hospi­tal or have other ex­pen­sive pro­ce­dures such as den­tal) will go to $750 from $500 for sin­gles and to $1500 from $1000 for fam­i­lies. This should make poli­cies a bit cheaper.

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