Greg Hunt: Expecting a 'very significant surge' when the virus has passed

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Health minister Greg Hunt says he has spoken to private health insurance leaders about actions taken during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Hunt was speaking in the House of Representatives in response to a question from shadow minister Chris Bowen.

Mr Bowen said private health insurers could save up to $5.5 billion during the pandemic as a result of the deferral of elective surgery. "Those savings far outweigh the small amount that's been returned to policyholders via the six-month premium freeze," he said.

In response, Mr Hunt said he was not aware of the claimed saving, adding "I would want to respectfully check the figure which the member has set out."

He said, "I do know that individual insurers are making very significant provisions for hardship and supporting individuals. In addition to that, one of the things we are always looking to do is to make sure that we have not just a sustainable public health system but a sustainable private system. We are expecting a very significant surge in elective surgery after the virus has passed."

Minister Hunt added he would seek advice on the claimed saving. "But I would say this: all of the insurers that I spoke with are, above all else, focused on the provision of support for those Australians who have that need to ensure that hardship packages and additional support are addressed during the course of the coronavirus period."