Health funds’ fall highlights need for consumer input

Health fund numbers have fallen again to their lowest level in 12 years, making more important than ever the need for a more consumer-focused approach, the Consumers Health Forum said today.

“The continued decline in the number of Australians taking up private cover comes despite the introduction of measures aimed at making insurance better value for consumers ,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“We acknowledge the Federal Government’s efforts and that it is still seeking to bring down costs for consumers through further plans such as a website showing hospital specialist fees.

“But we need consumers to have a bigger say in the search for a better outcome to avoid health insurance continuing its downwards spiral.

“There needs to be more rigorous examination of why people are dropping out, as well as a review of measures such as:

  • Raising the age at which lifetime health cover starts – perhaps moving the threshold up as high as age 35. Currently penalties start mounting at age 30 making it a mounting disincentive on top of financial pressures facing that age group.
  • More incentives for people to remain insured by reducing out of pocket costs such as spurring specialists to bulk bill at least for initial consultations and encouraging surgeons and other proceduralists to offer no or known gap fee arrangements.

“It is clear that more fundamental reforms are needed to bring private care costs into line with community capacity to pay. Premiums have risen by 30 per cent in real terms since 2011, in contrast to rises of 10 per cent in general health expenditure and in wages.

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