Seniors concerned about rising out-of-pocket costs

Posted: 1 March 2019 8:43 am

Survey finds seniors worried about costs for services and procedures not covered by Medicare or insurance.

There is a growing concern among older Australians about the affordability of healthcare, according to a survey from National Seniors Australia. The study found that seniors were especially worried about out-of-pocket costs that they incurred because the procedure or service was not covered by either private health insurance or Medicare.

"Gap costs are a major contributor to rising out-of-pocket expenses. People on low and fixed incomes are particularly hard hit and are forced to put off medical treatment or cut their private health cover," National Seniors Australia chief advocate Ian Henschke said in a statement.

And these concerns are not surprising when you look at the numbers. Over the last decade, health care costs have risen by 56.7%, health insurance premiums have jumped by 66% while overall inflation increased by 23.5%. Even with this year's premium increase of 3.25%, due on 1 April 2019, being the lowest in 18 years it's an expense that Henschke says seniors cannot bear when coupled with increasing doctors fees and an expanding list of procedures excluded from private health cover.

Making matters worse, Henschke says, is a lack of transparency in the healthcare industry, with comparing specialists fees and services nearly impossible. Henschke also highlighted the difficulties faced by consumers when comparing health insurance policies.

However, as of 1 April 2019 the health insurance sector is undergoing some changes and one of the largest reforms will be a new tiered hospital insurance system: gold, silver, bronze and basic. Health insurance policies will need to meet minimum standards to be grouped into a tier, which should make comparing policies simpler for consumers. Health funds will need to make sure all their products comply with these new requirements by 1 April 2020.

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