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Health Insurance Comparison Australia: 2011 in Review

aldwin sab January 31st, 2012 0 comments
Health insurance news

2011 was an important year in Australian health insurance news. There has been plenty of debate as to where the country is headed in terms of private health insurance, and the issues keep resurfacing as the country leaders strive to determine where the private health system fits into the overall picture and how to best structure the government’s role to make the best healthcare affordable to all who need it.

Image by Manu Dias/AGECOM

Withdrawal of Private Health Insurance Rebate?

One of the biggest and most hotly discussed news stories of 2011 in general is the proposal to cut the private health insurance rebate currently offered by Australia’s government. Right now, the government offers a rebate up to 34% for private health insurance policyholders depending on age and income.

This has been widely viewed as a positive step for Australian health care, as it encourages citizens to consider private health care and eases the burden on the Medicare public health system. It also stimulates economic growth and makes it easier for people to stay healthy. Down the line, it also protects the economy, by making it less likely that people will need medical services for problems that weren’t treated earlier because people simply couldn’t afford proper care.

Proponents of the rebate cut say that it will not hurt anyone, as the rebate will only be cut for those earning more than $90,000 annually, and people in those classes may tend to opt for private health insurance in any case, rather than wait on long line for public health care.

They also claim that it will ease the government’s budget and make new funds available for other important measures that are currently stalled due to lack of money. They see it as a win-win situation for everyone, perhaps excluding the wealthy classes for whom it won’t be a burden in any case.

Critics believe that cutting the rebate could distort health care in Australia and increase the burden on the public health care system. Without the rebate, thousands of private health care users may give up their private health funds and opt to use Medicare for their health needs.

This particularly applies to healthy younger adults who in general don’t need much by way of medical care and may decide to forgo private health insurance coverage, leaving them to make use of public health care when the need does in fact arise. This may increase costs for Medicare, and yet may not bring about the extra budgetary surplus that proponents of the plan envision. This continues to be a debate in the government and amongst citizens.

Many Private Health Patients Not Claiming

Another interesting story from 2011 is that many patients who do have private health insurance are not making claims on their private health funds when utilising services covered by Medicare. The reason they do this is to avoid the gap and excess costs which patients often have to pay out of pocket as part of their private health plans.

Opponents say that this dupes the system and forces Medicare to pay more for the public health system, when the entire existence of the private health system is meant to ease the burden on Medicare. The idea of the rebate system is to make it easier for those who wish to purchase private health care and open up the public system for those who truly need it.

Private Health System Sees Record Growth

As Medicare needs continue to soar and waiting lists get longer while beds become less available, more and more people are opting for private health care. The difficulties encountered with Medicare, combined with government incentives to those who get private insurance, are pushing the number of privately insured patients up. This is despite increasing premiums. All of this contributes to more options springing up for Australian would-be patients, making a careful private health insurance comparison that much more important.

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