Industry awaits APRA report

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Release of the always highly anticipated private health insurance quarterly statistics is imminent.

The statistics provide an important snapshot of the industry, with the latest membership numbers, benefit payments, patient out-of-pockets and related financial information.

The latest statistics come at a contentious time for the industry.

The lowest annual premium increase in 17 years was followed by Labor's commitment to cap premium increases at two per cent for two years during a Productivity Commission inquiry into the industry. 

Labor's announcement followed a speech by leader Bill Shorten in which he castigated the industry over premiums, affordability and profitability.

APRA executive board member, Geoff Summerhayes, responding to the recent public debate, said it is important that it be "informed and correctly focused".

According to Mr Summerhayes, "APRA does not consider industry profits or capital levels to be the primary drivers of rising premiums."

"The underlying cost of Australia’s health system is the ailment; rising insurance premiums are just a symptom. Specifically, the fundamental forces pushing premiums up are higher claims costs experienced by insurers, through such factors as a greater uptake of medical services among policyholders and the rising cost of treatments and procedures," he said.

Health minister Greg Hunt seized the comment, accusing Labor of planning to scrap the private health insurance rebate. Mr Shorten and shadown health minister Catherine King have both said Labor has no current plan to chang the rebate.