Members Health: Private health as the 'pressure valve'

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Members Health says the latest quarterly statistics from the prudential regulator show more people are taking out hospital and general treatment cover.

According to the quarterly statistics from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, in the three months to the end of March 2021, cover for hospital treatment grew by 59,879 people, while general treatment cover saw an increase of 87,971.

“This is the third consecutive quarter of growth in private health insurance numbers,” said Matthew Koce, CEO of Members Health.

The association is an alliance of 26 health funds that are not-for-profit or part of a member-owned group, regional or community-based. 

“According to the APRA data, well over half the Australian population have health insurance, with 13.8 million people holding cover for general treatment.

“Australia’s unique and world-leading mixed public and private health care system provides consumers with choice around fast access to high-quality care,” said Mr Koce.

“COVID-19 has also had a profound impact on public hospital waits with the value and importance of the private health system becoming much more apparent over recent times."

Mr Koce said public health waits have become "so dire" there are claims of 12-month queues for specialist consultations just to be put onto the official hospital waiting list.

"That means waiting around 12 months for a medical consultation and then another 12 months to get surgery in a public hospital," he said.

“The private health system acts as a pressure valve, reducing pressure on public hospitals by freeing up beds for those that need them most. The growth in private health insurance participation shows things are moving in the right direction with the private health system shouldering more of the burden.”