Seniors to abandon health funds if premiums keep rising

Seniors could be forced to downgrade their level of cover or drop their health insurance altogether, if premiums continue to rise unchecked.


As health insurers prepare submissions supporting their case for a hike next April, National Seniors is raising concerns about issues driving seniors away from health cover at a time when they need it most.


In a submission [number 86] to the Senate Inquiry Value and affordability of private health insurance and out-of- pocket medical costs, National Seniors said the next price rise – around six per cent – would come on top of soaring power prices and changes from last January to the Age Pension means test.


“Those changes adversely impacted around 30,000 part-pensioners, many of whom are now struggling to maintain health insurance,” National Seniors Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said.


“Our members have told us they want to keep their health cover so they can avoid lengthy waiting lists in the public hospital system and have the doctor of their choice.


“But the higher insurance premiums mean they are downgrading their level of cover with products that have higher excesses, co-payments and more exclusions, just to avoid dropping the private health cover altogether.


“National Seniors’ research has also shown that 93 per cent of people aged over 75 have at least one chronic condition, while 77 per cent of people aged between 50 and 64 have at least one chronic condition.


“Many of them could return from an unavoidable hospital stay or course of treatment and find themselves thousands of dollars out of pocket due to gap payments and product exclusions, which can be difficult and confusing to estimate. They usually come as a nasty surprise when making a claim.”


Mr Henschke said most seniors with health insurance would have been paying their premiums for decades during which health funds would have reaped the benefits of fewer claims.


“National Seniors is calling on the Federal Government to explore all options to improve the affordability of premiums, including the pricing arrangements between health funds and providers,” Mr Henschke said.


12 September 2017.