Private Healthcare Australia says membership boost very welcome

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Private Healthcare Australia says the latest quarterly statistics from the prudential regulator show 'stabilising' membership and coverage levels in private hospital and extras cover.

According to the quarterly statistics from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, in the twelve months to the end of March 2021, there was an increase of 1.5 per cent in the number of Australians with hospital cover (11.39 million) while general treatment coverage increased by 1.8 per cent (13.88 million).

Private Healthcare Australia CEO Dr Rachel David said flexible options including telehealth, access to mental health treatments and hospital in the home, as well as the financial support provided by health funds during the pandemic had enhanced the value proposition of private health insurance (PHI).

“More than 13.8 million Australians choose to have PHI for the choice and peace of mind it provides. As public hospital waiting lists continue to blow out, more Australians are taking out PHI to ensure they have timely access to surgery. Maintaining the balance of Australia’s private/public healthcare system is more important than ever.” 

The private insurers paid $22.2 billion in benefits in the year to March 2021, returning 88 cents in every dollar collected from premium revenue.

“As predicted, a large proportion of deferred claims due to COVID-19 restrictions are being funded and we are seeing an increase in both surgical procedures and allied health treatments,” said Dr David.

“During 2020, health funds were required by APRA to retain additional capital to fund the return of treatment post-pandemic,” said Dr David. These funds will be wound down as claiming patterns stabilise over the next 18-24 months.

The association said its data shows there were over 162,000 financial hardship member applications approved by the sector during the year to the end of March 2021, with an estimated total value of over $162 million.

Dr David said health funds were committed to providing ongoing financial support for members and ensuring the affordability of PHI into the future.

“The reported increase in out of pocket costs is concerning and I urge hospitals and doctors to work with private health insurers to minimise this impact on consumers. It is critical at this time that health funds, medical practitioners and all healthcare stakeholders prioritise the needs of patients and work together to ensure private health insurance is affordable and continues to take pressure off the public system."