For those concerned about their health, having no insurance can leave you in an uncomfortable position. The changes to private health insurance rebates have resulted in increased premiums and made it a luxury for many households. Perhaps, as a budget measure, the Treasurer should consider making insurance more affordable for older Australians.
Rebates are available to those who have lower incomes and indeed, higher concessions are applicable to those over 65 (35 per cent) and those over 70 (40 per cent). However, if you are struggling to manage on a fixed income, even a reduction of 40 per cent can price private health insurance out of your budget. Also, for those who have taken out insurance later in life, the Lifetime Health Cover (LHC) loading may apply and will increase premiums.
Many older Australians also have access to some kind of concessional health care card which reduces the cost of certain services. However, the fear of needing an operation and not wanting to go on the public hospital waiting list is enough to ensure most older Australians are keen to hold onto private health insurance.
It is worth noting that private health insurance is not ‘risk-rated’ and therefore companies cannot charge you more or refuse to insure you based on your age or your likelihood of using services.
An increase in the concession available to Australians over 65 years of age would enable, and possibly encourage, more people to hold private health insurance. This would switch the onus for hospital provision from the government sector to the private sector and would ensure that older Australians get more immediate access to the care they need.