Older Aussies to bear brunt of health insurance rises

Insurers may force older Australians to pay more for common medical procedures.

health insurance may cost more

A leaked report on private health insurance recommends that procedures such as cataract surgery, and hip and knee replacements be quarantined in more expensive policies, hitting older Australians in the hip pocket hardest.

Older Australians, who overwhelmingly need these sort of procedures, will therefore need to upgrade to more expensive policies to be covered, if the proposals go ahead..

Almost 70 per cent of the 5000 respondents to YourLifeChoices’ recent Retirement Matters Survey have private health insurance. Among the general population, just 46 per cent of Australians are covered.

However, one in five survey respondents said they were unlikely to be able to keep health cover for the rest of their lives.

With healthcare costs nominated as the single biggest drain on respondents’ savings, it is likely that future increases in premiums will persuade many older Australians to drop health cover.

Almost three-quarters of uninsured survey respondents said they had once had private health cover.

Modelling conducted by accountancy firm Deloitte for the Health Department suggested some premiums could rise by around 12 per cent under the new regime, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Government has rejected this saying that any changes to premiums would cost between zero and 0.3 per cent more.

The reforms, due to be introduced in April 2019, are meant to standardise insurance policies across the sector so consumers can more clearly compare what is on offer

Insurers will be required to offer four levels of cover – basic, bronze, silver and gold, which will have the highest level of cover at the greatest cost.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Deloitte report was merely “input” to inform deliberation by the Private Health Ministerial Advisory Committee, which is assisting in drafting the insurance reforms.

“(The reforms) deliver more support for patients seeking cover for mental health, discounts for young people of up to 10 per cent and better coverage for those in rural and remote areas,” Mr Hunt was quoted as saying.

“It does not change existing policies but, as the public has long demanded, merely categorises them for simplicity.”

However, Grattan Institute health economist Stephen Duckett said if the modelled 5.6 per cent (before inflation, including inflation it is 12.3 per cent) premium rise for households with “medium”, soon-to-be silver, policies came into effect it would be “significant”.

“Those [affected] families are going to have to make a decision, and they might drop their level of coverage down to bronze or drop out altogether.”

Australian Society of Ophthalmologists president Peter Sumich told The Sydney Morning Herald the proposed changes were driven by the health funds and continued a trend of policy exclusions with no commensurate benefit from lower premiums.

“The expert actuarial analysis they perform always ensures that they benefit from any adjustments,” Dr Sumich said. “The illusion of improvements is like the 'shell and pea' game where the huckster keeps moving the shells but the pea remains hidden.

“… the gold products they offer for cataract are no better than the old ones despite the money they have saved by excluding cataract from lesser policies,” he said.

Will you keep up your private cover if the cost of your policy increases? Will you upgrade from your present insurance in order to benefit from the extra cover in the more expensive policies?

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    COMMENTS

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    Aussiefrog
    12th Oct 2018
    10:22am
    Why am I not surprised?
    Janus
    12th Oct 2018
    10:43am
    I'm shocked (not) to read that this current government and the insurance companies want to make things more expensive for those older folk!

    More of the "hurry up and die" philosophy from the commercial and right wing sector.
    Seadove
    12th Oct 2018
    11:02am
    What about all the years and years prior that we have paid in to these fund and not claimed anything. The gall of them is unbelievable.
    Rae
    12th Oct 2018
    2:50pm
    Maybe a class action. If foreign companies can sue for breach of contract possibly long term health fund members can too.
    Ted
    12th Oct 2018
    11:21am
    Trust the Government and insurance companies to come up with a cheaper option! Pigs might fly, look at the evidence at the Financial Services Royal Commission, ‘misconduct driven by greed ahead of basic standards of honesty’. Why standardise the offerings rather than plain English easily comparable policies.

    12th Oct 2018
    11:27am
    Maybe health insurance should become compulsory for everyone to get the costs down. That is the case in other countries. Years ago Medicare might have been enough in Australia to cover everyone, even people outside the tax system. These days there are more on pensions like me and contribute nothing.
    We are already on a very high level in private health and we are putting money aside for the increases and pay the full year's premiums. Increases in everything are to be expected as they have been with us for ever.
    Paddington
    12th Oct 2018
    1:10pm
    I tend to agree. There are well off people using the public system without a thought for the cost. About time it was means tested!
    If pensioners can cough up for the premiums then most can afford something towards health care.
    Anonymous
    12th Oct 2018
    1:15pm
    Means tested ?????
    Wow the greedy leaners know no limits
    So you want to penalize the taxpayers so you can continue to have free healthcare
    How selfish
    Rae
    12th Oct 2018
    2:57pm
    Yes increases but maybe only to CPI like everything else. That means a 2.1% increase not a 12%.

    Yes I agree with means testing health care. Why not everything else seems to be means tested.

    Sorry olbaid but those wealthy enough don't pay taxes and never have.

    I'm pretty tired of paying for everyone else myself right now and it all getting worse because of excessive migration.

    Maybe born and died Aussies go to the front of the hospital queues. You know the one's who have paid taxes or better still add up all the taxes paid and base position inquires around that. Plenty of wealthy would be on an outer then as I said they haven't paid their fair share at all.

    Yes I like that idea. Base it all on how much tax you actually paid over the last say 100 years.
    Old Geezer
    12th Oct 2018
    3:00pm
    Private health insurance is mans tested the more you earn the less rebate you get.
    Paddington
    12th Oct 2018
    8:57pm
    Oldbaid, what are you talking about?
    What ‘leaners?’
    That is a far right term which identifies you clearly.
    Paying something when you use the public system would help it tremendously.
    Those who cannot pay don’t!
    If you are taken to the emergency department private health funds now cough up some money. Wealthy people without private health cover should happily contribute rather than using the services when they could help out. Common sense!
    VeryCaringBigBear
    12th Oct 2018
    10:32pm
    Paddington we are all covered under Medicare so why should anyone pay any more? Only those on welfare think like you do as you think the world owe you a living just because for being alive.
    Anonymous
    13th Oct 2018
    4:35pm
    The usual Lieberal shills are here, I see...
    Barbara Mathieson
    12th Oct 2018
    11:52am
    1 in 5 likely to rethink their health insurance funds?
    More likely 3 in 5 I’d say. I am in the latter category!
    I guess that means, specialists , doctors , in fact many health professionals will have to ‘ ‘rethink’ their career paths when less patients visit their rooms!
    Just let’s clog up the public system ; that’s what will happen.
    Just another case of so called professional bodies not able to look further down the track
    Really shortsighted and brain impaired .
    Anonymous
    12th Oct 2018
    11:58am
    Depending where you live, Barbara. A friend was told to wait for a cataract operation for a minimum of 2 years on the public system, but it can be done the following for $3000 for each eye. I suppose we all save up and put our premiums in a special account and when something happens we use that cash. Fine in theory but it never happens, somehow the worms must be getting into that special account.
    Rae
    12th Oct 2018
    3:00pm
    Wish I'd had that account instead of the past 47 years of private health I've never used.

    Yes I'll bail out and pay as I'm not going to be in a fund just to pay these new chums to spit out babies when everything but aged services is allowed to be claimed.

    The AMA is the worst union around and should be controlled.

    12th Oct 2018
    12:25pm
    Nothing new here, we have held a policy for over 40 years and when doing comparisons we found that we have a particularly good policy that stopped being sold almost 30 years ago. My cynicism suggests that we have been quietly pushed into getting out of the policy because each year our premiums rise well above the stated increase. When health insurers trumpet an increase of "only" about 4% (and various health ministers join in the chorus) our policy is well into double figures, generally about 16%.

    What is needed is transparency from health insurers and when they negotiate with government for their annual increase they should be forced to release the total figures. Health funds should be made to advise governments the range of increases and decreases that are to be made which will give an average percentage. The numbers of members affected by the percentages should also be made public and in this age of computerisation, revealing these percentages should only take a competent programmer half a day's work.
    Thoughtful
    12th Oct 2018
    12:37pm
    All too true. I have also paid more for a grandfathered policy which includes many "benefits" I will never use. The thing is it covers everything I am likely to use. Modern policies make it a case of "predict your illness". You may save some outlay but the policy may be useless to you long term. I wish I had just saved the money on health insurance years ago - just banked it. Too late now and as sure as I change policies I will need it!

    12th Oct 2018
    12:38pm
    I’ll keep my insurance . Small
    Price to pay for peace of mind
    Old Geezer
    12th Oct 2018
    2:30pm
    Me too.
    floss
    12th Oct 2018
    1:06pm
    Time to bail out it is no longer affordable the goose is plucked.
    Paddington
    12th Oct 2018
    1:13pm
    We can’t afford to opt out. That is the other side of the coin.
    Wait times are not good if you have health issues.
    Time to means test the public system as wealthy people are using it.
    Anonymous
    12th Oct 2018
    1:18pm
    Paddington - that’s the most selfish comment on this topic so far .
    Everyone pays medicare Levy - except maybe folks on welfare - and are entitled to use public health
    Old Geezer
    12th Oct 2018
    2:31pm
    If you go private in a public hospital you go to the top of the queue too.
    Paddington
    12th Oct 2018
    9:06pm
    Oldbaid, you are still on this?!
    Of course everyone is entitled to use the public system but why not pay something when you can afford it? Private health funds do so on behalf of their clients now anyway.
    It would be voluntary hopefully as people should have a conscience. When people happily cough up thousands or millions for things but then use the public system when the waiting lists are so long in some places it seems only fair to pay something. Say an operation costs $25,000 and you are a millionaire why not go private and pay or give something towards the cost at the public hospital.
    What are you going on about anyway. You have private health cover. I do too!
    VeryCaringBigBear
    12th Oct 2018
    10:28pm
    Paddington If you go into a public hospital as a private patient your health pays the public hospital. My last stay in a public hospital cost my health fund $2000.
    Paddington
    13th Oct 2018
    10:46am
    VeryCaringBear, that is where I got the idea from. I was taken to emergency and asked if I would be happy to swipe my private health card. Of course I was happy to do that. Anything that relieves the pressure!
    Rae
    12th Oct 2018
    2:48pm
    Cancel and just pay if I need cataract etc surgery. I still do yoga and The-chi so joints are good.
    I've had private for decades and not used it.
    At a certain cost the money invested for a return will outweigh the insurance.
    Hope the shareholders of these greedy funds take a real haircut if they do this.
    Old Geezer
    12th Oct 2018
    2:52pm
    I have to wonder about some of those knee replacements as every time I have a scan they ask me how painful my knee joints are. They look at me silly when I say that I have never had any pain in my knees.
    roy
    12th Oct 2018
    3:05pm
    Join a Mutual health fund that doesn't have shareholders.
    Rae
    12th Oct 2018
    3:10pm
    I'll probably keep the insurance OG but I'm angry about it as it's a huge rip off. Eventually the cashflow will cause issues here and a lot of these multi national health insurers are just sucking the country dry.

    The medicare levy taxes and lottery etc set up to support hospitals should be sufficient if the system was a decent public one with government paid staff.

    Let the private doctors and hospitals run themselves. It's the AMA that is the problem. I have friends who paid for surgeries and did deals with the doctors so in many cases it is the AMA and the Private Health Insurers creating the excessive costs just as they do in America.
    Old Geezer
    12th Oct 2018
    3:29pm
    Agree Rae and I always ask what it is going to cost me before I consent to anything. I also ask for the item numbers so I can check if covered by my health fund. Yes I have been doctor shopping and Medicare doesn't like it one bit either. I have also accessed out third tier medical system where neither Medicare or health funds pay and the treatment I go was second to none although it cost me quite a bit. I have been told if I hadn't I would not be here today so it was worth every penny.

    The problem with public hospitals is that they are very inefficient in many areas and if run better would not only cost less but would provide everyone with much better treatment.
    Billv
    12th Oct 2018
    3:02pm
    You have to accept that any political party will use the standard form for raising revenue or cut expenses "always hit the vulnerable first i.e. pensioners (Retirees)". It's been the norm for some time now and till we all die off leaving them no one to hit that they will then look else where. I see life expectency for retirees plumeting in the future. So live it up or make the best of the life you have before they stop you doing that also.
    roy
    12th Oct 2018
    3:06pm
    Where's MICK today?
    Rae
    12th Oct 2018
    3:11pm
    Maybe MICK is waiting for your opinion roy.
    KB
    12th Oct 2018
    4:35pm
    I just change my health insurer and on a better plan plus saving 12.00 a month. I need to have a hip operation . It would take me 4 years in the public system to have one and the public hospitals are full. I thought premiums would go down not up next year.
    KSS
    12th Oct 2018
    6:59pm
    One of the problems with this new 'Bronze, Silver, Gold' categorising of health funds is that services we don't want or need are going to be included, e.g. Gold may cover hip replacements but it also covers pregnancy and fertility treatments. I certainly don't want or need that so why should I have to pay for it? I already have to subsidise other people's kids childcare and education and now I have to subsidise them to get pregnant in the first place?
    Anonymous
    12th Oct 2018
    8:49pm
    That is part of socialised medicine, KSS. Get used to it in a progressive society; I have not had any children but I pay for others to have them in taxes, health insurance etc. Just get used to it - we are in a welfare state.
    VeryCaringBigBear
    12th Oct 2018
    10:34pm
    Nothing will change its just another way of putting what we already have. I will be a good member with a bronze membership.

    13th Oct 2018
    4:32pm
    Health insurance is a SCAM.
    Big Kev
    18th Oct 2018
    6:06pm
    Rather than put up charges, how about we bring down costs. For starters the outrageous salaries most directors are on. 20% cut in those would save having to raise the fees at all.

    Maybe it's time to get rid of for Profit Funds and go back to old Provident funds where the interest of the member is the priority not that of the Shareholder and the Directors huge salaries (remember they may be on several Boards too).
    And now we have heard that the Federal Govt is going to take the same attacks on the older members of society with Medicare no longer covering the cost of the scans on knees .