Medibank raises outlook for policyholder growth

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Medibank has raised its outlook for total policyholder growth and says it now expects to achieve an increase of 3.5-4 per cent during the financial year 2021.

The company's chief financial officer Mark Rogers provided the raised outlook in a presentation to the Macquarie Australia Conference.

The revised outlook for policyholder growth is an increase from the 3 per cent forecast when the company announced its half-year result in February.

Mr Rogers said the private health insurance market is seeing policyholder growth driven by the general focus on health. Another trend is the increasing acceptance of homecare services with Medibank seeing an increase in virtual hospital bed volume from 259 in June 2020 to 384 in December 2020.

He said the company will continue to invest and expand its 'short stay, no gap' offering through additional sites and establishing pilots for new modalities, including general surgery and endoscopy

Mr Rogers said the company had provided policyholders with $195 million in pandemic-related support to the end of April 2021, including premium relief, and that any 'permanent net savings' from lower than expected claims will be returned to customers. The company had a 'deferred claims liability' of $310 million at 30 April.

He said surgical procedures are recovering quicker than non-surgical procedures following the lifting of restrictions and COVID-related income from telehealth has significantly reduced.