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“Hit and run” health patients jump to front of the operating queue, drop cover

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Aussies frustrated by public hospital wait times are taking matters into their own hands, according to new research by Finder.

A Finder survey of 1,080 respondents revealed 5% of Australians – equivalent to 1.01 million people – have signed up for private health insurance to make a claim and then cancelled their cover once they'd received treatment.

The new membership trend was most popular with those from NSW, with 7% admitting they had signed up to avoid long waits for one major procedure before cancelling their cover.

The research shows a further 6% of Aussies – equivalent to 1.2 million people – were considering choosing the private route as a treatment shortcut.

Tim Bennett, health insurance expert at Finder, said delayed surgery impacted millions of Australians.

"As surgery waiting times explode, patients are having to explore other options as they are no longer able to work or their quality of life has deteriorated.

"For some – serving the private health insurance waiting period is a quicker fix."

The 16th Australian Medical Association (AMA) annual Public Hospital Report Card shows wait times for planned surgeries continued to blow out in the last financial year, with only 63% of patients referred for semi-urgent planned surgery treated within the recommended 90 days.

That's more than 1 in 3 patients waiting longer than the clinically indicated time for essential surgeries.

In December 2022, 14.4 million Australians had private health insurance, up by 43,487 people from the previous quarter, the latest APRA data shows.

The private health insurance sector has seen 5 consecutive quarters of membership growth since December 2021.

Bennett said access to specialists in the public hospital system continues to be a problem.

"Many public patients wait months and even years for an outpatient appointment, only to be put on another waiting list to receive surgery."

Bennett urged Aussies to take out private health insurance as a preventative measure, not just in a time of crisis.

"Don't wait until your health is a burden to make it a priority."

Have you ever signed up for private health insurance to make a claim and then cancel cover once you've received treatment?
No, but I'm thinking about it6%
Source: Finder survey of 1,080 Australians April 2023

Finder reveals health insurance award winners

Bennett said it was crucial that Aussies choose a health insurance policy that best suited their individual needs.

"We've just announced the winners for the Finder Health Insurance Awards 2023 – given to the best policies on the market.

"Our experts compared over 400 policies to determine the winners."

HBF health insurance took top gong for Best Health Fund of the Year.

Learn more about the Finder Health Insurance Awards 2023 here.

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