Ombudsman to provide 'more holistic data' on COVID-19 impact

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The ombudsman has reported 991 private health insurance complaints in the three months to the end of March 2020 - a 4.9 per cent fall compared to the first three months of 2019.

According to the ombudsman, it has observed "significant and rapid changes within the industry" as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, "which has led to uncertainty in the community and changes in the nature of complaints we have received."

"Between February and April, the Office received more than 120 contacts related to COVID-19," it said. "The majority of these contacts raised issues related to suspension requests, premium costs and the inability to access hospital and general treatment services as planned."

The ombudsman said it will provide more holistic data on COVID-19 related complaints in its next quarterly update.

Health insurers responded to the pandemic by delaying or scrapping the approved 1 April premium increase, introducing financial hardship provisions for members and extending benefits to services such as telehealth.

The ombudsman said around 70 per cent of the complaints received during the March 2020 quarter were resolved by the relevant insurer. It finalised 129 disputes with 86 per cent finalised by providing the complainants with further explanation.