On 13 October, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced a number of private health insurance reforms, which will be implemented progressively from 2018. A number of these initiatives involve further analysis and refinement, and information is limited at this stage. Below is an overview along with some commentary, and we will be sure to keep you updated as information comes to hand.

It is pleasing to see Government and the industry collaborating more closely and a more positive rhetoric emerging from Canberra towards private health insurance.

Reform   Our Comment
Insurers required to categorise products as Gold/Silver/Bronze/Basic and use standardised definitions for treatments to make it clear what is and isn’t covered in their policies. Positive step towards improved transparency. Awaiting detail on what is the minimum level of benefits covered within each category. However:
  • This doesn’t remove the issue of medical gaps emerging, even in ‘Gold’ covers
  • It appears no movement on ‘Junk’ policies and presumably these can be included within Basic
Upgrading the privatehealth.gov.au website to make it easier to compare insurance products, and allowing insurers to provide personalised information to consumers on their product every year. Positive development towards improved transparency.
Boosting the powers of the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman and increasing its resources to ensure consumer complaints are resolved clearly and quickly.  Positive development.
Reducing the benefits paid for implanted medical devices under an agreement with the Medical Technology Association of Australia.  This will allow health funds to pass on savings to members due to lower prosthesis prices mandated by Government.
Requiring insurers to allow people with hospital insurance that does not offer full cover for mental health treatment to upgrade their cover and access mental health services without a waiting period on a once-off basis. The maximum waiting period for psychiatric services is two months.

Waiving this will be of some value to certain members, and it is only available as a once-off.

Allowing insurers to discount hospital insurance premiums for 18 to 29 year olds by up to 10%, with the discount phasing out after people turn 40. The aim of attracting new, younger consumers into health insurance is a positive initiative. Planned implementation is 2019, and details are yet to be released.
Allowing insurers to expand hospital insurance to offer travel and accommodation benefits for people in regional and rural areas that need to travel for treatment. Positive initiative which supports rural and remote members who are required to travel to access services.
Increasing the maximum excess consumers can choose under their health insurance policies for the first time since 2001.  Positive initiative as provides further consumer choice.