The COVID-19 crisis has lead to health premiums being increased. CHOICE, a consumer advocate, explained that Australians need relief from these premiums urgently. "This year is going to be tough for many people and private health insurers can help a little bit financially by not passing on their premium increases," said Alan Kirkland, CEO of CHOICE. "If people can’t use the normal services that would allow them to claim on their private health insurance, then insurers’ costs will be going down. There is no way they can justify increasing premiums in this context. Health funds should scrap their April 1 premium increases."
One insurer, HBF, has already moved to cancel its April 1st premium rise for their customers. Non-urgent elective surgeries like hip replacements and cataract surgery have been cancelled by the Government. Many dentists are already cancelling check-ups. Physiotherapy sessions are cancelled, and other extras services will be impacted by social distancing measures.
"We are yet to see private health insurance be of any help for patients with COVID-19," added Kirkland. "Testing for the virus and treatment are covered by Medicare and are free. The health response to COVID-19 is led by the public health system. Health insurance is not needed to cover treatment for COVID-19."
Despite the average increase of 2.92 percent being the lowest in eighteen years, most funds will increase their premiums by more than three percent and some funds will have increases as high as 5.6 percent on average.
“Health fund premiums have gone up by 61 percent over the past decade. Their justification is that the amount they pay out to cover your treatment is going up. But that doesn’t hold up this year. We don’t think people should be paying full price when they won't be able to access a full service.”