Proportion of Australians with health insurance continues to fall

Richard Laycock 15 August 2017 NEWS

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As profits for insurers rise, the number of consumers with health insurance falls.

The proportion of Aussies with private health insurance has dropped for the eighth quarter in a row, according to the APRA private health insurance publication for the June 2017 quarter.

Hospital cover saw its largest proportional quarterly dip since the APRA series began in 2009, falling 0.4%, from 46.5% to 46.1%. The proportion of Australians with extras cover also saw its largest proportional quarterly drop from 55.5% to 55%, a fall of 0.5%.

These declines were seen across every state and territory.

The proportion of Australians with hospital cover peaked in June 2015 at 47.4%, meaning that there has been a fall of almost 1.5% over the last two years. However, the number of those with extras cover has only fallen by 0.8% over that time.

While Australians have been ditching their cover, health funds have been making bank. Health funds saw a 5.13% increase in their net profit margins over the last quarter. This 5.13% increase is well above the average of 4.6% since 2009 and caps off a stellar year for insurers who saw their net profits hit highs of $1.4 billion.

The biggest surprise in all of this is that the insurance companies were able to make these profits while paying out $3.74 billion for hospital claims in the June 2017 quarter, which was a record high. Health funds paid out almost $14.6 billion in hospital claims over the last four quarters.

The data also laid out that there was a sharp increase in private patients being treated in public hospitals.

“This practice is lose-lose for Australians and is having a significant impact on the affordability and sustainability of the health system," said Australian Private Hospital Association (APHA) CEO Michael Roff. "Those patients using their private health insurance in the public system are unwittingly adding to the waiting list burden felt by their neighbour who does not have insurance."

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