Private hospital cover in Australia has fallen to its lowest level in five years amid rising costs, disputes between stakeholders and delays in long-promised reforms.
The latest quarterly figures, released by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority last week, put the national coverage rate at 46.1%, down from 47% a year earlier, even as health fund profits rise, reported The Australian.
Health funds' after-tax profits soared by 15.5% to over A$1.4 billion (US$1.1 billion) in the 12 months to 30 June 2017, compared to A$1.2 billion for the year to 30 June 2016. Premium revenue increased by 4.6% in the year to 30 June 2017, 4.6% higher than the previous year to 30 June 2016.
Health insurers had almost 35,000 fewer members than the previous quarter, with people of all ages deciding to go uninsured. The only exceptions to the decline were newborns put on to family policies and adults seeking to avoid Lifetime Health Cover surcharges around the age of 30. Premiums rose again, this time by a weighted average of 4.84% cent on 1 April, and the dollar value of the government rebate continued to erode.
Almost 40% of policies now have exclusions as insurers help members keep costs down, despite the Ombudsman and the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission warning of people being left without cover when they need it.