Medibank updates investors on pandemic impact

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The leadership of Medibank has written to shareholders to update on how the private health insurer is managing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the company chairman (Elizabeth Alexander AO) and CEO (Craig Drummond), "There is nothing normal about the way we have all been living and working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – it has significantly affected us all and the health and economic impacts have been severe."

Ms Alexander and Mr Drummond said the majority of its members are maintaining their health insurance but it has had to introduce measures given so many have been impacted by the "stark reality of losing their jobs". 

The company said around 1 per cent of its customers have taken up the option of suspending premium payments while the approved annual increase has been suspended for six months for all customers.

The company said postponing the premium increase is saving members approximately $120 million or on average $70 per policyholder.

Customers can also claim for a range of consultations delivered by phone or video as part of their Extras cover, including services such as psychology, physiotherapy and dietetics.

"We are committed to returning any permanent COVID-19 related benefits, in excess of the current package outlined above, to our customers once they are known savings," they said.

Ms Alexander and Mr Drummond told investors the company's long-term strategy remains unchanged. 

"The Executive Leadership Team remains focused on differentiating our private health insurance business through leveraging our dual brand strategy while also transforming into a broader healthcare company," they said.

"The health sector in particular has undergone enormous change and its response to COVID-19 has been extraordinary. The sector has shown that it can adapt, change and collaborate where needed. That said, reform is just as important as it ever was and we will continue to advocate for our customers, particularly in the area of affordability."

They said there is no change to its outlook despite the impact of the pandemic. However, they described the longer-term impacts as "less certain".

"The affordability of private health insurance has been a challenge for many Australians over recent years and uncertainty over the speed at which the economy can recover from COVID-19 will likely keep affordability at the forefront of issues we face," they added.