Government considering transitional arrangements for some

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The federal government is pushing ahead with implementation of the reform that involves the categorisation of all private health insurance policies but is considering transitional arrangements for some insurers.

The reform, announced last year, will categorise all existing 70,000 private health insurance policies as gold/silver/bronze or basic.

The categories are based on set minimum requirements. It is designed to simplify private health insurance and provide consumers with greater certainty about the services covered by each type of product.

Some concerns have been raised over the exclusions in the categories, with some services only available in Gold, leading to calls for the implementation of the reform to be delayed.

In a statement, the Medical Technology Association of Australia said, while it does support the reforms, "...there are serious concerns around the proposed categorisations that would negatively impact on consumers, leaving them worse off compared to the current system.

"It proposes restricting coverage for some surgical interventions that consumers commonly rely on such as spinal fusion, joint replacements, insulin pumps (for which there is no public hospital alternative), pain therapies such as spinal cord stimulation, hearing implants and intraocular lenses. 

"Under the proposed model, all of these procedures would require the highest and presumably most expensive level of cover despite many of these procedures being available today to people holding lower levels of cover."

It is understood the government is pushing ahead according to the current timeframe, with implementation in time for the 2019 premium increase, but that health minister Greg Hunt is considering a limited transition period.

Mr Hunt is understood to be considering the transition period, which would take implementation beyond next year's premium increase, but currently it may only apply to smaller private health insurers. It would be designed to assist them to manage the adoption of the more complex aspects of the reform, including standard clinical definitions.