Satisfaction with private health insurers slumps

Peter Terlato 10 November 2016

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10% of us are now ready to switch providers.

New research reveal satisfaction among the majority of private health insurance customers has fallen slightly between 2015 and 2016, with around 1 in 10 policyholders indicating they would either leave or consider switching their fund in the next 12 months.

The results of Roy Morgan Research's latest consumer survey show overall satisfaction levels declined from 76.3% in the year to September 2015 to 74.4% in the year to Septem,ber 2016. Despite the downturn, satisfaction remains well above levels from a decade ago (66.4% in 2006).

HBF continues to be the brand to beat in terms of customer satisfaction, remaining in pole position among the five largest funds, even after its rating dropped from 81.2% to 80.2% year-on-year.

Of the five, HBF is the only insurer whose satisfaction level remains above the market average (74.4%).

HCF (74.3%) was the next highest, followed by BUPA (73.6%), NIB (70.9%) and Medibank Private (70.1%).

Looking at the 16 biggest insurance companies, Teachers Federation Health not only had the highest overall level of satisfaction (83.6%) but also the greatest proportion of "very satisfied" members (44.8%), significantly higher than the market average (27.9%).

Medibank Private returned the worst satisfaction levels in the year to September 2016, slipping 3.6% year-on-year to 70.1%. NIB suffered the greatest losses in customer satisfaction, down 5.1% to 70.9%.

Customer retention is an integral aspect of growing an insurer's customer base, however, only one-quarter (27.9%) of policyholders maintained they were "very satisfied".

This means a significant proportion of clients may consider cancelling or switching their current policies.

In October, we reported complaints to the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman had risen substantially since 2013. This is unsurprising, given most Aussies believe private health insurers are motivated by money.

The decline in private health satisfaction is worrying, considering Australia has "reached a crisis point" in public hospital funding. Waiting times are up and bed numbers down.

Trying to decide which hospital option is better for you? It's sensible to compare public and private cover, consider wait times and safety and understand how to claim health insurance when visiting.

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