In­sur­ance over­haul

Health fund pre­mium cuts for young Aussies

The Daily Examiner - - NEWS SPECIAL REPORT - Sue Dun­levy

HEALTH fund premi­ums for those aged un­der 30 will drop by up to 10% and in­sur­ers will be banned from cov­er­ing un­proven nat­u­ral ther­a­pies - like yoga and pi­lates - un­der a ma­jor over­haul of pri­vate health in­sur­ance.

Health Min­is­ter Greg Hunt has an­nounced 14 changes to con­trol health fund premi­ums that have been ris­ing at many times the in­fla­tion rate forc­ing tens of thou­sands of peo­ple a month to drop their cover.

Un­der the changes, peo­ple aged 18-25 will get a pre­mium dis­count worth 2% per year for each year they be­long to a health fund, the dis­counts will phase out by the time they turn 40.

To save funds money re­bates for a large range of un­proven nat­u­ral ther­a­pies will be banned in­clud­ing: Alexan­der tech­nique, aro­mather­apy, Bowen ther­apy, Buteyko, Feldenkrais, herbal­ism, ho­moeopa­thy, iri­dol­ogy, ki­ne­si­ol­ogy, natur­opa­thy, pi­lates, re­flex­ol­ogy, Rolf­ing, shi­atsu, tai chi, and also yoga.

Pre­mium rises for those aged over 30 will be 1% a year lower as the gov­ern­ment slashes by $1 bil­lion the amount health funds pay for pros­the­ses like hip and knee re­place­ments over the next four years.

“We know that ev­ery dol­lar mat­ters to Aus­tralian fam­i­lies and these re­forms will get bet­ter value for fam­i­lies and make poli­cies eas­ier to un­der­stand,” Fed­eral Health Min­is­ter Greg Hunt said.

A new ru­ral health prod­uct will see health funds of­fer travel and ac­com­mo­da­tion ben­e­fits un­der hospi­tal cover to make pri­vate health in­sur­ance more at­trac­tive for peo­ple liv­ing in ru­ral and re­mote ar­eas.

Eight in 10 health fund mem­bers opt to pay an ex­cess to lower their premi­ums and Health Min­is­ter Greg Hunt will lift the cap on these ex­cesses from $500 to $750 for sin­gles and from $1000 to $1500 for fam­i­lies.

The gov­ern­ment will try to end the con­fu­sion sur­round­ing the choice of the best health fund pol­icy by re­vamp­ing its pri­vate health in­sur­ance om­buds­man web­site and giv­ing the om­buds­man six more staff.

The om­buds­man’s web­site will be up­graded to ask peo­ple what they want to be cov­ered for and what their in­come is and sug­gest all the pol­icy op­tions from ev­ery health fund.

Health funds have pledged all the sav­ings they make as a re­sult of pay­ing less for hip and knee re­place­ments and other med­i­cal de­vices will be passed on to con­sumers as lower premi­ums.

“The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment should be com­mended for tack­ling the cor­rup­tion, rorts and kick­backs that over time be­came a fea­ture of this sys­tem, lead­ing to poor out­comes for con­sumers in terms of both cost and safety,” Pri­vate Health­care Aus­tralia Chief Ex­ec­u­tive, Dr Rachel David said.

Con­sumer’s Health Fo­rum chief Leanne Wells said the re­forms ap­peared likely to de­liver lower pre­mium in­creases in the medium term.

How­ever, she said dis­counts for younger mem­bers threaten to un­der­mine the com­mu­nity rat­ing prin­ci­ple fun­da­men­tal to Aus­tralian health in­sur­ance which is meant to treat ev­ery­body equally re­gard­less of age or health sta­tus.

PHOTO: IS­TOCK

SHOT IN THE ARM: The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment is chag­ing the rules around pri­vate health premi­ums.

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