Rebate spend finishes lower than forecast

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The Department of Health's 2018-19 annual report has confirmed government spending on the private health insurance rebate came in over $100 million less than expected in the Budget.

According to the recently published annual report, spending on the rebate finished the year at $6.06 billion, lower than the $6.17 billion forecast in the Budget released in April.

The annual report has also revealed the Department met all its performance targets in relation to private health insurance.

"In 2018-19, the Department supported the Government and industry to deliver private health insurance reforms to improve the sustainability of the health system as a whole, simplify private health insurance and to contribute to lower the annual premium increase," it says.

"Legislation to support the reforms commenced in October 2018, enabling the private health insurance industry to implement most reforms from 1 April 2019. The Department works to increase access to clinically effective and cost-effective prostheses.

"Through the agreement between the Government and the Medical Technology Association of Australia (MTAA), privately insured Australians have improved access to breakthrough medical technology and affordable medical devices."

It says, "A key outcome of the reforms to date has been the listing of cardiac ablation catheters for atrial fibrillation. In addition, the reform work focused on refining the assessment of medical devices to ensure evidence-based clinical outcomes and cost-effectiveness for the health system."

"Although more than half of the Australian population currently has private health insurance, many people still find buying health cover confusing. That’s why the Australian Government, supported by the Department of Health, introduced reforms to make private health insurance more affordable, easier to understand and simpler to choose," says the annual report.

In early 2019, the government funded a $5 million information campaign on the reforms.

"The campaign, which launched in February 2019, was developed with input from stakeholders. Insurers have a 12-month period, by 1 April 2020, to transition all hospital products into Gold, Silver, Bronze and Basic tiers and apply standard clinical categories. They are on track to meet this requirement," says the annual report.

It says by April 2019, "...there had been widespread adoption of voluntary private health insurance reforms by private health insurers, including age-based discounts, increased voluntary excesses and travel and accommodation benefits."