Insurers confirm decisions to defer premium increase

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Health insurers have confirmed the decision to defer this year's 1 April premium increase following an announcement by Private Healthcare Australia on Sunday.

HBF confirmed its decision to cancel the approved 2020 premium increase before Sunday's announcement.

Following the announcement, nib, Medibank, HCF, GMHBA and Defence Health, confirmed their approved premium increases would be postponed until 1 October. 

nib managing director, Mark Fitzgibbon, said the decision to postpone the increase was the "responsible thing to do" given the deteriorating economic conditions and extreme financial pressures on so many Australians.

“It's a very significant measure and the reality is we aren’t yet seeing any material savings as a consequence of the Government order to temporarily suspend non urgent elective surgery. But we are confident we can accommodate postponing premium increases and it's consistent with all the other initiatives we’re undertaking to support our members through this crisis,” said Mr Fitzgibbon.

Medibank CEO Craig Drummond said, "There is nothing normal about the way we are living and working right now.

“The coronavirus is presenting us with the most significant health and economic challenge this country has seen in 100 years.

“That calls for extraordinary measures from all of us.

“Our customers are confronted with enormous uncertainty and profound stress, while some have already faced the stark reality of losing their jobs. Nothing could have prepared Australian households for this."

He continued, “Premiums for Medibank and ahm customers will be automatically adjusted over the coming weeks, and regular updates will be posted on our websites.

“We hope these initiatives go some way to relieve the understandable stress, fear and anxiety our customers are experiencing, and consistent with what we said earlier this week, any further benefit from lower claims, including from the cancellation of non-urgent elective surgery will be returned to customers.

“Medibank remains well placed to manage this event.

“We are working hard to support our customers, our community and our people.”

HCF CEO Sheena Jack said, “We are looking to do whatever we can to support our members doing it tough during this fast changing and unpredictable COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a not for profit, we exist purely to support our members. They are, and will always be, our top priority,” said Ms Jack, who added the insurer will defer the premium 1 April increase given the impact of COVID-19 on elective surgery and the anticipated reduction in ancillary cover claims.

According to GMHBA CEO Mark Valena, “This decision is about putting members first. These are unprecedented and trying times and we know that many of our members are now in difficult health and financial situations.”

“Access to the best healthcare is more important than ever in the time of a pandemic. We want to make sure that our members can afford the cover they need at this time, but we also want to provide targeted relief to those who need it most, so we are releasing a broad member support package that stretches beyond just premium relief,” Mark Valena said.

“The current situation is highly complex and difficult to predict. In making this decision we assessed our ongoing sustainability in a range of pandemic scenarios as we obviously need to be here to support all members now and into the future."

Defence Health CEO Gerard Fogarty AO said, “I recognise the financial stress the COVID-19 pandemic is having on members – and the anxiety this is causing. During this difficult time, my commitment is to ensure our members, community and employees are supported.”