The latest statistical update has revealed that more than one million Australians have signed up for private health insurance since January 2020.
The update from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) shows that almost 14.7 million people or 55.1 per cent of the population now have private health cover.
The update also shows that claims now exceed pre-pandemic levels.
In the year ending September 2023, private health insurers paid a record high of $23.2 billion in benefits, an increase of 10.4 per cent, or $2.19 billion, over the previous year.
The number of hospital episodes paid for by health funds during the 12-month period is up by 9.6 per cent to a record high of 4.88 million, which exceeds pre-pandemic figures.
There has also been an annual increase of 5.4 per cent in extras services funded to a record 101.6 million, including dental, optical, chiropractic and physiotherapy.
Private Healthcare Australia CEO Dr Rachel David said that increased utilisation combined with health inflation would lead to higher premiums in the absence of action to address affordability.
“Now more than ever as Australians struggle with the cost of living, we need to stamp out waste in the health system and ensure every dollar spent is directed to getting the best health outcomes.
“It’s beyond belief that in these tough economic times, Australians are still paying the highest prices in the world for medical devices, between 30-100 per cent more than in comparable countries, due to an outdated price setting arrangement with multinational medtech companies," said Dr David.
“It’s simply not possible to pay the highest prices providers and stakeholders demand for goods and services in private health, and deliver affordable premiums.
“We will work with government to keep downward pressure on premiums, keep health inflation under control and reduce cost of living pressure for 14.7 million Australians,” added Dr David.