Private health insurers hit back at 'activist organisation'

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Private health insurers have slammed CHOICE as nothing more than an 'activist organisation' after the organisation issued a media release claiming the sector has failed Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a scathing response, Medibank CEO Craig Drummond said, “CHOICE is conveniently ignoring the facts and confusing consumers at a time of great uncertainty – this is just a publicity stunt from them.

“We know people are doing it tough, and that’s why we stick by our promise to return any savings, in addition to our $180 million support package already committed, straight back to the people who matter most, our customers."

Mr Drummond pointed to a number of measures insurers have implemented during the pandemic, including postponing the approved 1 April premium increase, offering premium relief for customers experiencing financial hardship and extending some benefits.

Private Healthcare Australia accused CHOICE of seeking to undermine the importance of Australia's private health system.

"CHOICE has become nothing more than an activist organisation promoting its own niche ideologies instead of communicating the facts to consumers," it said.

"In recent years, CHOICE has changed its approach to research and campaigned vigorously against private health in Australia. The private health sector is a vital part of our world-class healthcare system that supports 13.6 million Australians access timely and efficient care, leaving the public system for those who need it most. 

"Its latest missive criticising health funds on their response to the pandemic is inaccurate and irresponsible.  Health funds were among the first organisations to respond to the crisis by supporting their members financially and with access to healthcare in the first week of national lockdown. 

"CHOICE has made no reference to how many people have been assisted or by how much. This is in spite of the fact over 100,000 people have claimed hardship assistance and members can continue to do so."

Private Healthcare Australia chief executive Dr Rachel David said CHOICE does not understand that surgeries and treatments have not been cancelled.

"They have been postponed. Members who needed joint replacements, cataracts and endometriosis surgery still do post-COVID. Dental and allied health appointments have now returned to normal levels.

"Health funds are now using the remaining savings to fund the backlog of elective surgery. The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) has made it clear that health funds must retain enough capital to fund this backlog of elective surgeries and the additional healthcare needs of private patients.

Private Healthcare Australia encourages CHOICE to read up on all the regulatory and capital requirements private health insurers are governed by to understand why funds must retain capital to fund vital healthcare for our over 13 million members – now and into the future."