Health premium shake-up
Funds to be overhauled in bid for better value
HEALTH fund premiums for those aged under 30 will drop by up to 10 per cent 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 will today unveil 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 cent per year for each year they belong to a health fund. The discounts phase out when they turn 40.
To save funds, 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 yoga.
Premium rises for those aged over 30 will be 1 per cent a year lower as the government slashes by $1 billion the amount health funds pay for prostheses like hip and knee replacements 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,” Mr Hunt said.
A new rural health product will see health funds offer travel and accommodation benefits under hospital cover to over the next make private health insurance more attractive.
Eight in 10 health fund members opt to pay an excess to lower their premiums and Mr 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 all health funds.
Health fund policies will be classified as gold, silver and bronze and have to meet certain standard coverage conditions.