Health insurance complaints soar

The Ombudsman’s 2017 State of the Health Funds Report was released earlier this week, revealing a shocking 30 per cent increase in complaints to the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman.

In 2016-17, there were 5750 complaints – an increase of over 1300 complaints – about issues such as incorrect direct debits to hospital exclusions, although nearly half of all these grievances were about Medibank.

Health fund premium hikes to the tune of 70 per cent over the past decade, increasing gaps and decreased inclusions fuelled the frustrations of Australian health fund holders.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of the report is the membership retention rates, which are usually a reliable indicator of customer satisfaction with their fund. HBF had the highest retention rate at 97 per cent, compared to HIF, GU Corporate, GMHBA, health.com.au and Transport Health, which all had retention rates below 70 per cent.

Private Healthcare Australia Chief Rachel David believes the overall number of complaints are relatively low compared to the number of policy holders.

“Health funds are making a considerable investment to help consumers navigate a complex system, including making it easier to choose health fund products based on cost and need,” said Dr David.

Had the Australian Dental Association’s Time2Switch complaints been added to the list, the total number of complaints would have been just under 8900.

The Ombudsman does not include campaign-related complaints in the report, much to the ADA’s chagrin.

“The ADA disagrees with this – a complaint is a complaint and should be noted as such by the Ombudsman,” said ADA President Dr Hugo Sachs.

“The campaign sought to raise awareness and encourage complaints about how private health insurers’ practice offer little rebates compared to premium increases consumers have to keep paying.”

The latest tally of complaints constitutes the biggest rise in a decade.

“These complaints are a symptom of why customers are leaving private health insurance,” said Medical Technology Association of Australia Chief Ian Burgess.

Are you happy with your health insurance? Did you have any complaints about your health fund last year?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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