Australians will be paying more for their health insurance premiums, with the federal government getting the green light to hike up its premium costs.
13 million Australians will see their health insurance costs increase by 3.25 per cent from April 1 next year, despite Health Minister Greg Hunt’s claims that is the lowest since 2001.
“This premium change will see a single person pay an average of $1.14 extra per week and a family on average will pay $2.35 more a week,” Mr Hunt said in a statement on Wednesday.
Mr Hunt said it was a small rise, while also claiming that premiums had fallen by 40 per cent since the Coalition came to power in 2013.
Premiums rose by just over 50 per cent between 2010 and 2016 before climbing another 3.9 per cent in 2017.
However, opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King said the price rise was another increased cost on households.
She said it would force more Australians to stop their private health cover.
“Already, Australians are downgrading or ditching their private health cover in record numbers in response to relentless price rises, soaring out-of-pocket costs and growing exclusions,” Ms King said.
Thousands of people had been downgrading or dumping their health cover after feeling the pressure of annual premium rises.
Labor has promised to cap big health insurers to restrict their annual premium rises to two per cent if it wins the next federal election.
Meanwhile, Medibank Private and ahm have been the first insurers to increase their premiums in line with the government’s rise, lifting their premiums by an average of 3.3 per cent.
“Healthcare costs in Australia have been tracking at an average of 4.6 per cent above inflation each year over the past 10 years,” CEO Craig Drummond said in a statement, claiming that this was the group’s lowest average premium increase in 18 years.
The government has also introduced a new Gold, Silver and Basic rating system for health cover to make it easier for people to choose private health cover.
It will come into place in April.
Mr Drummond said it will lead to lower premiums and greater choice.
“The challenge remains, as to how we can continue to deliver quality healthcare in Australia, at an affordable price,” he said.