SEPTEMBER 17 2016 – 11:53PM
Almost 70 per cent of Australians with private health insurance have considered ditching or downgrading their cover in the last year in the face of relentless price rises and diminishing value for money, polling has found.
Close to 80 per cent of people believe health insurance companies put profits before patients and more than 90 per cent are concerned they’re trying to “Americanise” the health system to boost their bottom line.
The new ReachTEL polling shows just how displeased and distrustful Australians have become of their health insurance providers.
The average cost of premiums has gone up by about 35 per cent since 2010, well outpacing inflation. This is believed to be a key reason why people are starting to abandon private cover.
The percentage of people with private health insurance dropped for the first time in 15 years in the June quarter of this year – from 47.4 per cent to 47 per cent, according to official government figures.
If the trend continues it will put increasing pressure on the public health system and the federal budget bottom line.
Commissioned by the Medical Technology Association of Australia, the polling of more than 1100 people found 69.2 per cent have considered dropping or reducing their coverage. The numbers are largely in line with a recent government survey of 40,000 people.
Asked who they thought was responsible for the increase in the cost of premiums, half of respondents said the insurance companies, while a little over a quarter blamed the federal government.
Asked for their opinion on the statement “private health insurers put profits before patients”, 53.5 strongly agreed and 24.4 per cent agreed. Fewer than 10 per cent of people disagreed with the statement.
A whopping 73 per cent said they were “very concerned” about the creeping Americanisation of the Australian health care system and a further 18.6 per cent said they were “somewhat concerned”.
The MTAA is the peak national body that represents more than 70 medical technology industry members.
It is fighting the health funds, which are lobbying the government for major changes to the Prosthesis List – which determines what insurers pay for prosthetics – that could save them up to $800 million a year.
That’s equal to about 45 per cent of the benefits they pay out on medical devices such as pacemakers and hip and knee replacements.
The funds say they would then be able to cut premiums by between $150 and $300 per policy.
However, asked if they trust insurers to pass on the savings to consumers through premium cuts, 54 per cent of poll respondents said no.
Only 20 per cent said yes, with the rest undecided.
MTAA chief executive Susi Tegen says while premiums have gone up 35 per cent the growth in average benefit paid for medical devices has been zero per cent. The health funds are calling for an arbitrary blunt cut, she said.
“Our industry accounts for 14 cents in every dollar paid in reimbursements by private health insurers under their hospital cover policies,” she said.
“If we’re going to be serious about helping deliver a sustainable and transparent healthcare system we need to look at the other 86 cents that’s driving up premiums, and more importantly the risk model the industry utilises.”
The Turnbull government has pledged better value for money, recently announcing a committee to oversee reform.
Source : Sydney Morning Herald