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04 Nov 2019

Some health insurers are ripping off their customers by charging more for silver policies than other companies charge for gold ones.

New market research from consumer advocacy group Choice has revealed that Australians buying some silver and silver plus health insurance policies are paying comparatively too much.

In the cases of some silver plus polices, customers stand to lose hundreds of dollars every year – some paying as much as $1,700 more for policies with less cover.

Choice is describing them as plus policy scams, and has called on the Federal Government to hold a public inquiry into the private health insurance industry.

The introduction of the new Basic, Bronze, Silver and Gold system in April this year has opened the way for manipulation, Choice says.

Choice’s Dean Price said the industry lobbied to increase complexity and confusion in the health insurance market and is now taking advantage of this confusion to trick Australians into paying more than they need to.

“We’ve found over 215 silver and silver plus policies that cost more than gold policies from competitors,” he said.

“That means you pay these insurers more for less coverage. That’s less money in your pocket and more surprises when the worst happens and you end up in hospital.”

Silver plus policies allow customers to tailor health insurance to give the level of cover provided by a silver policy, plus cover for one or more procedures usually only covered by gold insurance.

Silver and silver plus policies provide less cover than gold policies, so would naturally be expected to cost less. But Choice found silver plus policies that cost up to $800 more per year than the cheapest gold policy in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, up to $700 more in the ACT and New South Wales, up to $900 more in Victoria and Tasmania, and up to $1,700 more in the Northern Territory.

“Health Minister Greg Hunt tried to make health insurance clearer, but the health insurance lobby succeeded in making it complicated. Choice’s investigation shows how the health insurance industry is profiting from the confusion they created,” Mr Price said.

“People already find health insurance high cost and low value. This investigation uncovers more reasons why people don’t trust the companies offering these expensive policies. The death spiral this industry is facing is self-imposed and they can’t be trusted to fix it themselves.”

The worst offender nationally is Frank (GMHBA) Health Insurance, with the most expensive silver plus policy (their ‘Top Hospital’ cover) in every State and Territory.

All the major health insurers such as Medibank, Bupa, HCF, HBF and NIB also feature prominently in Choice’s analysis of scam silver plus policies.

“The Federal Government should take this opportunity to show that it won’t give in to these powerful lobby groups,” Mr Price said.

“The Government should call a public inquiry into the health insurance industry. They need to listen to the people affected by the industry’s bad decisions so that we can deliver fair health care and fix the problems together.”

Shadow Health Minister Chris Bowen said Mr Hunt was not prepared to take action.

He said the Choice research was yet another crisis call regarding private health insurance.

“Labor agrees with Choice. The only way to address the private health insurance crisis is with a root and branch review of the system,” Mr Bowen said.

“It is time the Government listened.”

The full list of high-cost plus policies is available at: https://infogram.com/1pegmym6p11vwxim7jlp660m50blmxjq9l1?live

The analysis is based on single policies with a $750 excess without the rebate. Families and couples pay about double. The majority of policies analysed were silver plus policies, and a smaller number of silver policies. They all cost more than at least one gold policy in the same State.

CHRIS JOHNSON 

 

 


Published: 04 Nov 2019