Choice urges health insurance check-up

Stock image.
Stock image.

WITH sweeping changes to private health insurance coming into effect, consumers are being urged to find out how their cover is affected.

The changes come in addition to the annual April 1 price hikes, which average 3.25 per cent this year.

Typically, people with health insurance are advised to research and prepay 12 months in advance to lock-in their current price ahead of the annual rise.

But the federal government’s changes to simplify hospital cover mean new policies will be released in coming weeks, and some people may lose out.

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“It’s frankly dishonest for anyone to say they can provide a true comparison of the health insurance market right now,” Choice spokesman Jonathan Brown said in March.

Choice warns that commercial comparison sites still do not have all the details necessary to make informed decisions about the new Gold, Silver, Bronze and Basic hospital covers.

“These changes are big and no one really knows the true impact on the overall market until after April 1,” Mr Brown said.

Under the changes, each new hospital policy will be in one of four product tiers: Gold, Silver, Bronze and Basic.

Gold offers all 38 categories of hospital services, Silver covers 26 categories, while Bronze covers 18 and Basic covers little if any.

The government has also culled a range of natural therapies.

Independent MP Kerryn Phelps – a former Australian Medical Association boss – says she has asked Health Minister Greg Hunt to reconsider the fresh prohibition on therapies such as yoga, Tai Chi, western herbal medicine and naturopathy.

“The net was cast far too wide for these complementary therapies,” she told Sky News on Monday.

Under the average annual premium change, singles will pay an average $1.14 more per week while a family will shell out an extra $2.35.

But Choice says some insurers have raised premiums by 5.9 per cent.

Dr Phelps said premiums must increase each year to allow private health companies to be sustainable, but Australians also need to be getting bang for their buck.

“There are areas where people are not getting value for their money and there are large gaps for some people for certain procedure,” she said.

Mr Brown urged consumers to do their research about new policies before committing to changing.

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