AMA backs health fund shake-up

The West Australian - - NEWS - Sarah Martin Fed­eral Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor

A shake-up of the pri­vate health in­sur­ance in­dus­try has won the back­ing of the Aus­tralian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion as a “step in the right di­rec­tion”, but crit­ics say it does not go far enough to ad­dress af­ford­abil­ity con­cerns.

Un­veil­ing the de­tails of the Fed­eral Govern­ment’s over­haul yes­ter­day, Health Min­is­ter Greg Hunt said the changes would re­sult in sim­pler poli­cies and more af­ford­able pre­mi­ums.

But shadow health spokes­woman Cather­ine King said that while the Op­po­si­tion wel­comed some as­pects of the re­forms, young peo­ple would only save about 70¢ a week and pre­mi­ums for older Aus­tralians and fam­i­lies would still rise next year.

“There is ab­so­lutely no guar­an­tee in this pack­age there will be a lower pri­vate health in­sur­ance rise in April next year,” Ms King said.

The AMA said it re­mained con­cern about “junk” poli­cies that only cov­ered en­try into pub­lic hospi­tals.

“We need to en­sure that con­sumers are very clear about what they’re get­ting,“vice-pres­i­dent Tony Bar­tone said.

De­fence Health chief ex­ec­u­tive Gerard Fog­a­rty said the changes were “far from com­plete or suf­fi­cient to im­me­di­ately re­duce the pres­sure con­sumers are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing”.

In­sur­ers will be able to dis­count hospi­tal in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums by up to 10 per cent for those un­der 30 and pol­i­cy­hold­ers will be able to select a higher ex­cess in ex­change for lower pre­mi­ums.

In­sur­ance poli­cies will be cat­e­gorised as gold, sil­ver, bronze or ba­sic, and ben­e­fits will be cut to a range of nat­u­ral ther­a­pies such as yoga and aro­mather­apy.

Men­tal health cov­er­age will be ex­panded.

The Govern­ment has signed a deal with pros­the­ses mak­ers which will cut the price in­sur­ers pay for their prod­ucts by $1 bil­lion over four years.

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