Bupa says the gradual re-opening of Victoria following an extended lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has seen elective surgery return to a more normal level.
The company said that, while the latest statistical report from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) highlights a "challenging outlook for health insurers", the number of Bupa customers in Victoria preparing to have elective surgery is almost three per cent higher than the corresponding period in 2019.
"At a national level, Bupa eligibility checks currently sit five per cent above March 2020 levels," it said, adding its own data shows this is the first time Victoria has reached normal levels since COVID-19 elective surgery restrictions commenced nationally in March.
According to Bupa’s managing director of Health Insurance, Emily Amos, this is a significant sign community confidence has been re-established in Victoria.
“We know there have been some members of the community who may have chosen to stay away from hospitals while COVID remained active, even once elective surgery resumed,” said Ms Amos.
“It’s encouraging to see that community confidence is coming back and people are comfortable heading back to their doctors and into hospitals to have their operations.
“Any surgery impacted by the elective surgery bans arising from COVID was only ever going to be delayed rather than cancelled. We recognised this and have kept funds aside to cover this delay in procedures,” continued Ms Amos.
She said the latest APRA health insurance data show the priority must remain keeping care accessible and affordable against a backdrop of an uncertain economic environment and a public system that is seeing waitlists blow out to over 18 months for common elective procedures.
“During the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, we worked hard to keep as many people insured as possible. A major part of this was deferring premium increases by 12 months for around 40,000 Bupa customers on the Government’s JobKeeper or JobSeeker programs.
“While premium support has helped slow the rate of discontinuances in the industry, it does not address long-term affordability issues. Now more than ever, all players in the private health system need to work together to ensure that patients aren’t left holding a bigger bill, whether that be a direct bill or higher insurance premiums for the same amount of cover.
“This means greater collaboration amongst stakeholders such as government, private hospitals, doctors and medical device companies to minimise waste while ensuring customers are at the centre of all reform efforts. As funders of health care, health insurers have the strongest incentive to keep customers well and deliver optimal patient outcomes,” added Ms Amos.