At Doctors’ Health Fund we respect your expertise as a member of the medical community and believe good communication is central to our provision of the cover and service you expect. With this in mind we wanted to share the highlights of the recently released Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) annual Private Health Insurance Report which this year focused on how insurers communicate with members. 

Growing complexity and poor communication practices 

One of the key findings of the report was that the health insurance market is becoming increasingly complex, making it harder for people to compare policies and make an informed decision when purchasing cover. 

The other major finding of the report was that poor practices exist amongst some insurers regarding how they notify members of changes to their insurance coverage and benefits. Earlier this year the ACCC began proceedings in the Federal Court against Medibank Private Limited, alleging it misled its members by failing to notify them of changes that led to lower benefits being paid for in-hospital pathology and radiology services. 

The report recommended health insurers improve: 

  • upfront disclosure to consumers about how their health insurance works, how benefit changes are communicated to them and what options consumers have when changes take place 

  • industry practices around when and how changes in agreements between healthcare service providers and health insurers are communicated to consumers

What improvements would mean for doctors and consumers 

As the ACCC report demonstrates, a key area where the industry needs to lift its game is communicating with members when agreements change between an insurer and a healthcare service provider that may lead to the patient being unexpectedly out of pocket. We call this ‘hidden junk’ – an issue our CEO Peter Aroney covers in more detail in this opinion piece

Importantly, if health insurers improve transparency regarding their products and changes to benefits, this will help to reduce the incidence of difficult conversations in doctors’ rooms, where a patient realises for the first time that they may not be covered for a proposed upcoming treatment. 

In addition to the ACCC report, recent changes to our industry’s Code of Conduct have been a valuable step in making better communication front of mind for health insurers. 

For us, better is always possible 

We appreciate the investment you’ve made into your health through the Fund and are committed to providing at least 60 days’ notice of significant detrimental changes to a hospital policy you have with us in line with the Code of Conduct. 

Although we offer an uncomplicated range of covers, we’ve identified some improvements we can make to the information available on our website. Launching early next year, our new website will provide members with access to more information about our products, processes and the healthcare system. Improvements in the design of the site will make existing content easier to find. 

As proud as we are of our level of member satisfaction (95%), we strive for excellence and improvement in how we communicate with you and take seriously the ACCC’s report on how our industry is performing in this area. Keep an eye out for our annual member satisfaction survey which we will send you in late January. We welcome your feedback any time of year, but the survey is an opportunity for all our members to tell us how you think we are going with our communication, service, management of your claims and any other feedback you have.