Health minister Greg Hunt has expressed disappointment over the Senate's decision to launch an inquiry into legislation implementing changes to private health insurance.
The Private Health Insurance Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 was one of three Bills referred for inquiry to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee.
The Bills implement reforms announced last year by health minister Greg Hunt.
The Committee is now accepting submissions, until 18 July, with a reporting date of 13 August 2018.
The Private Health Insurance Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 includes a range of changes, including allowing premium discounts of up to 10 percent for people aged under 30. It also strengthens the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman, by giving it the power to inspect and audit health funds, and allows insurers to cover travel and accommodation costs as part of a hospital product.
It also removes the use of 'benefit limitation periods' and, in doing so, ensures consumers with policies impacted by the change are protected from having to repay the rebate and are not retrospectively liable for the Medicare levy surcharge or lifetime health cover loadings.
The two other Bills will increase the maximum permitted excesses for private hospital insurance from $500 to $750 for singles and from $1,000 to $1,500 for couples/families.
Speaking during a parliamentary debate on the 2018-19 Budget, Minister Hunt said the reforms are "making profound changes" to private health insurance.
"It was a shame to see Labor join with the Greens to take steps today which may delay some of those changes. I'm hopeful that we'll still be able to achieve them on time.
"In particular, the prospect that discounts for young people could be delayed is something that I'd ask the ALP to quietly reflect on as they consider the next steps forward," he said. The aged-based discount is scheduled for implementation from 1 April 2019.
"There is the lowest change in private health premiums in 17 years - a considerable amount lower than every year under the ALP. But there is more to be done. At the end of the day, the hospital system will only work if it is strengthened by strong private health insurance, not weakened by an attack which would drive up out-of-pocket costs, drive down coverage and put at risk small health funds in states such as Tasmania."