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Number of Australians with private health insurance hits an 11 year low

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While the number of private hospital visits rises by 1.6% in the December quarter.

The number of Australians with private health insurance is taking a precipitous fall, with the lowest percentage of Australians holding private health insurance (PHI) in 11 years (44.6%), according to the latest the Private Health Insurance Membership and Coverage publication from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).

Chief executive of Private Healthcare Australia (PHA) Dr Rachel David said that this figure could drop to 30% by 2030-2035 if nothing is done to address rising healthcare costs.

The data shows that 12,370 ­Aussies ditched their hospital cover in the December quarter alone. While the 44.6% participation rate marks an 11 year low for health insurance, the December quarter also marked the second straight year that the actual number of Australians with hospital insurance fell.

"APRA's December quarterly data shows a decrease in hospital treatment membership of 12,370 people compared with the September 2018 quarter, with the largest movement among people aged between 25-29," Dr David said in a statement.

While the figures show that Aussies are abandoning their cover, Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) CEO Michael Roff says that those who have kept their coverage are using it at an increasing rate, as episodes of care in private hospitals saw an uptick of 1.6% in the December quarter, with 940,922 privately insured hospital treatment episodes.

"While it's disappointing to see participation in private health insurance drop, we know it's not because Australians see low value in private hospital care. Australians recognise the importance of being able to access care when they need it, with the doctor of their choice and the high quality of care provided in the private system," Roff said in a statement.

In a bid to make private health insurance more affordable, PHA outlined some reforms that could help:

  • Raising the health insurance rebate back to its original 30%.
  • Continuing reform of overpriced medical devices.
  • More affordable dental schemes.

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