6PR program interview with Dr Rachel David on more people joining private health cover in December 2020 quarter

Station: 6PR
Program: Perth Live
Date: 23/2/2021
Time: 5:19 PM
Compere: Oliver Peterson
Interviewee: Dr Rachel David, CEO, Private Healthcare Australia


OLIVER PETERSON: I want to talk about private health cover, because we’re coming to that time of the year where your premiums might increase. But membership in the December quarter has actually indicated that there is a lot of value in private health cover.

Rachel David, CEO of Private Health Care Australia, joins me live on the programme this afternoon. Dr David, welcome back to the programme.

RACHEL DAVID: Gidday, Ollie.
OLIVER PETERSON: More people are signing up for private health care again.
RACHEL DAVID: Yeah. Well, look, we were- we saw in the December quarter last year that there’s been quite a jump in people who’ve both hung on to their health insurance and people that are taking it out. For hospital cover, close to 40,000 people extra and also over 50,000 for excess cover. And look, what this indicates is that the pandemic has got a lot of families and people sitting around the dinner table to really consider their health care and make it a priority.

But the other thing we’ve seen as a result in the pandemic is, of course, massive increases in public hospital waiting lists all around Australia, particularly it’s hit particularly hard in the eastern states and in Victoria, but it’s also happening in WA. And we’ve seen- as people have been told that there are well over a year, sometimes up to 10 year waits in some of the less well-serviced areas are things like basic joint replacements and cataracts for vision loss in the elderly. When they’ve realised that the wait times are really prohibitive they have reconsidered taking out health insurance.

OLIVER PETERSON: My guest is Dr Rachel David. Let me know, have you reconsidered your health care through the back part of the pandemic? And something that you have signed back up to if you let it go by the wayside. 92211882.

Dr David, are you getting any indication from a lot of the health funds which you represent in regards to what that premiums might look like from April 1 this year? Because most, in the end, we’re pretty generous during the pandemic in either froze premium hikes, or offered the plans and opportunities to customers to be able to defer those payments. What are we going to be stung this year?

RACHEL DAVID: Well, look, most of the health funds put off a premium increase for at least six months. HBF in WA chose not to increase their premiums, which obviously was a real bonus for consumers. And all of the health funds that PHA represents had some kind of hardship provisions in place for people who may have lost employment or hours as a result of COVID-19. Now, as it turns out, some health funds- there was more of an uptake in some health funds depending on where people live than others.

Coming April, there will be a small increase in premiums for some funds, but it is the smallest in 20 years. We have worked very hard to keep costs down as health funds, but there are some costs, obviously, that we can’t control – that is the cost of health care, particularly as the population ages and people require more surgery as they’re living longer. So we’re working with the Federal Government on plans in this budget to take some of the more wasteful costs out, including something I’ve talked about many times when I’ve been interviewed in WA, the excessive prices that we pay for medical devices made overseas, and Australia compared with the rest of the world. And I think there are plans to bring some of those excessive costs down. When that happens, we will be able to put some significant downward pressure on premiums.

OLIVER PETERSON: Rachel David, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
RACHEL DAVID: Cheers, Ollie.
OLIVER PETERSON: CEO, Private Healthcare Australia, Dr Rachel David.
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