Hard on the heels of its franking credits policy announcement, Labor’s plans for private health insurance have been thrust into the spotlight.
Government sources say Labor Leader Bill Shorten is eyeing the current 30 per cent rebate claimed by millions of Australians if it were to win power in the 2019 election. Labor denies the rebate is on the agenda.
Even so, Private Healthcare Australia chief Rachel David has already weighed into the debate, according to Fairfax Media. Ms David says Labor’s ‘failure’ to guarantee the future of the rebate would cause ‘great concern’ among older Australians and those on lower incomes.
“About 50 per cent of people with private health insurance have an annual income of under $50,000 a year,” she said. “The majority of those are full pensioners, part pensioners or superannuants on low incomes and these people will be hardest hit by further change.”
It would appear the ‘fun and games’ have begun even though the federal election is more than 12 months away.
Just days after premiums rose by an average 3.95 per cent, Mr Shorten said private health insurers were ‘running amok’ with their price increases.
“That’s why Labor has a policy that we will cap the increases at no greater than two per cent for the first two years if we get elected,” he said.
“But beyond that, we want to reform private health insurance – we don’t want to get rid of it.”
However, Health Minister Greg Hunt has warned that voters need to closely monitor the impact on household budgets in any changes to private health cover.
With the cost of private cover one of the key issues concerning older Australians, as revealed by YourLifeChoices’ Financial Literacy survey, Government and Opposition policies on the health front are sure to be closely followed.
Labor announced in February that it would launch a Productivity Commission review into private health insurance if it won government.
Mr Shorten has previously said he would not abolish the 30 per cent rebate, but political analysts are speculating that amendments may be on the table.
A spokesperson for Mr Shorten told Fairfax Media that Labor was not considering any changes to the rebate beyond what it had already announced, such as removing rebates on ‘junk’ policies and natural therapies.
Would changes to private health insurance rebates influence how you would vote?