APRA update reveals growth in March quarter

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The number of Australians with private health insurance rose by 50,000 over the year to the end of March 2018.

Confirmation of the rise was included in quarterly statistics issued earlier today by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.

The statistics also confirm a 3 percent rise in benefit outlays over the 12 months to the end of March 2018. The industry paid out $20.1 billion in benefits compared to $19.7 billion the year before.

Average out-of-pocket costs per insured hospital episode fell slightly from $318 in the March 2017 quarter to $316.57 in the March 2018 quarter.

Premium revenue rose 4 percent to $23.8 billion.

The rise in membership makes a mockery of a survey released yesterday by Roy Morgan claiming 250,000 Australia had dropped their private health insurance over the past year.

“The Government has made a start by implementing long-awaited reductions in inflated medical device benefits and this year the average premium increase of 3.95% was the lowest in 17 years," said Private Healthcare Australia CEO, Dr Rachel David.

“There is more to be done and we are working with the government and stakeholders to improve affordability by addressing issues such as cost-shifting from the public sector, low-value and wasteful care, fraud and compliance issues with the MBS.

“In addition the Government has an expert committee working on a transparency-based solution to out-of-pocket costs, so GPs can assist patients to find an appropriately qualified low-charging specialist.”

The APRA quarterly statistics reveal a recent and small reversal in the trend of Australians dropping their hospital cover. The number of people with hospital cover over the 12 months to the end of March 2018 fell by 36,745. However, there was an increase of over 10,000 in the first three months of 2018.

There was an increase of 52,980 people with general treatment (extras) cover over the 12 months ending March 2018. 

Total health fund coverage was up by 54,052 people in the 12 months ending March 2018 with an increase of 47,176 over the last quarter.