Government to legislate new ombudsman powers

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Government is expecting to legislate new powers for the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman in time for their scheduled implementation in July this year.

Announcing a raft of reforms to private health insurance last year, health minister Greg Hunt said the ombudsman would be given powers to conduct inspections and audits of insurers to ensure they meet their regulatory obligations in relation to consumers.

Responding to a question from a Senate committee, the Department of Health confirmed legislation will be required and that is anticipates implementation from 1 July this year.

In a separate response, the Department also confirmed legislation will be required to implement another reform announced by Mr Hunt - discounts for young people.

From April nest year, insurers will be able to offer discounted hospital cover to people aged 18 to 29, up to two per cent for each year that a person is aged under 30, to a maximum of 10 per cent for 18 to 25 year olds.

However, existing legislation prevents insurers from offering premium discounts to people on the basis of their age. The Department told the Senate committee an amendment will be required to the community rating requirements in the Private Health Insurance Act 2007 to allow insurers to offer these aged-based discounts to young people.