Pre­mium price for pain

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS - SUE DUN­LEVY JOHN ROLFE

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”.

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