Premium price for pain
HEALTH fund premiums will have their lowest annual rise in 18 years – but it will still far exceed inflation by going up an average of 2.9 per cent.
And many members will lose benefits for procedures such as private births and hip or knee replacements.
The price rise will cost a family about $130 and singles $60 a year and will be over the inflation rate by 50 per cent.
This is even though many fund members will find their health fund policies will be abolished, renamed or stripped of key benefits under reforms that will see health cover simplified into four new bands – Gold, Silver, Bronze and Basic from April 1.
The Sunday Mail can reveal part of the reason health fund members are still paying premium rises above the inflation rate is they are paying more for hip and knee replacements than people in the UK and New Zealand.
New research for private funds shows the gouge is adding about 2 per cent or $400 million a year to premiums. The research found makers of replacement hips and knees charge Australian insurers half as much again when compared to providers in UK or New Zealand.
It was thought this rort – which also covers implants to prevent heart attacks – had been stamped out in an agreement last year to cut prices by $1.1 billion over four years.
But research suggests that the cuts weren’t anywhere deep enough. It affects all fund members, not just those who need a new knee or hip, because it shares out such costs.
For a family with top cover, paying $5000 a year for insurance, the impact can be as much as $100. A single paying $2500 annually is forking over an extra $50. There is also a considerable cost of taxpayers via the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate.
Private Healthcare Austra- lia CEO Dr Rachel David said: “Further reform of this sector is critical if it is going to remain safe and affordable.”
But Medical Technology Association of Australia CEO Ian Burgess denied there was a rort.
He said the industry this year “single-handedly delivered, for consumers, the lowest increase to their health insurance premium in 17 years”.