TRIPLE M Coffs Coast program interview with Dr Rachel David on private health insurance premiums

Station: TRIPLE M Coffs Coast
Program: Australia Today
Date: 1/4/2022
Time: 9:14AM
Compere: Steve Price
Interviewee: Dr Rachel David, CEO, Private Healthcare Australia


STEVE PRICE: Private health insurance price hikes will add to the pain for people in their household budgets. They will go up again, I think, from today. Dr Rachel David is the Private Healthcare Australia CEO. Thanks for your time. Thanks for hanging on through that. I mean, that debate about COVID is an important one for us to keep having, don’t you think?
RACHEL DAVID: Well, absolutely. I’ve had one kid sent back from boarding school this week. Another child in isolation and one at university interstate who all have COVID currently. So I’m living the dream, Steve.
STEVE PRICE: Interesting, isn’t it, that, you know, like Natasha and I were just talking about there, Rachel, that the debate seems to have either disappeared or the politicians want it to go away?
RACHEL DAVID: Look, I think people have moved on in terms- but I don’t think we should be lulled into a false sense of security. This issue, this pandemic has massively changed the health and education systems, and we need to be watching very carefully, not just whether the systems are coping, but whether families and individuals who are trying to manage this in their [indistinct]…
STEVE PRICE: What’s it done in the health insurance premium space?
RACHEL DAVID: Well, look, it- paradoxically, it’s actually meant that people have been going into hospital for surgery less. So health funds over the short term have had more money, particularly from extras cover and for some of the slowdown in extras claims, and for some of the shorter procedures that people have put off. But they have mostly given that money back to customers now, and we’re now starting to see elective surgery bounce back and with some catch up in there, like at higher rates than previously, and people starting to catch up on their appointments. And many of those people are actually presenting to doctors and hospitals in pretty rough shape because they haven’t had all of the tests and check-ups that they otherwise would’ve had during the pandemic. And we’re also picking up on some issues around mental health in particular that have worsened considerably during the pandemic period.
STEVE PRICE: Interestingly, I used my private health two days ago to go and get a heart check-up off the back of the tragic death of Shane Warne and Kimberley Kitching. So I think you’re going to also see a spike in that area.
RACHEL DAVID: Look, to be honest, that prompted me to go and have some of my regular blood tests as well that I’d been putting off because just the beginning of the year, and the work and the school year was a lot to juggle. But yeah, it’s a big wakeup call, particularly for people in their 40s and 50s. If you think back 30 years ago, it was common for people in their 40s and 50s to drop dead of heart attacks. A lot more people smoked. It was not- the risk factors were not as well understood as they are now and we didn’t have good tests, so that’s definitely something that people should not be putting off. And, you know, we’re quite happy to pay for claims in that area because that’s what we’re there for.
STEVE PRICE: And the other thing we should remind women listening to us that it’s often thought of as a male problem, but the number of females who have heart disease is as high, if not higher than men.
RACHEL DAVID: Well, let’s not forget it’s the main cause of death for women aged over 50. A lot of other causes of death and illness get a lot more publicity; it’s not very sexy, but it is the main cause of death for women aged over 50 who’ve disabilities. So people, you know, take note – this is not just something that happens to other people.
STEVE PRICE: The cost of living is going to be a big issue during the election campaign. We’re all paying more for petrol. We’re all- know that when you go to the supermarket your basket of goods costs you more. And so even when you go and buy meat and fresh vegetables, same thing. Private health insurance is going up. When- how much will the premiums go up by, and when will that increase kick in?
RACHEL DAVID: All right. So this year we’ve worked hard to keep the lid on premium increases, because we know folks are struggling and our claims have been less due to COVID. But on average, because of our ageing population and the rising cost of things like medical technology, there will be a small increase on average of 2.7 per cent, which is considerably below CPI at the moment. Now because of the pandemic you’ll find that the majority of funds, particularly the larger ones, are putting off that premium increase. So it won’t be taking place as usual today but later in the year, towards the end of the year – I think most funds have put it off by six months.
STEVE PRICE: Yeah, well, I’m with Medibank, so mine’s been delayed. I think NIB has as well and AIA; those hikes won’t occur until 1 September, and I think HCF has actually delayed theirs until 1 November. That would cover a fair slice of the public, wouldn’t it?
RACHEL DAVID: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, if anybody is concerned about what their own fund is doing, all of the funds in some way have given back their excess earnings from the COVID period to customers. But if anyone’s concerned about their fund, they should firstly ring them and ask them what they’ve done and discuss any financial issues they’ve been having. And secondly, if they’re not happy and looking for another one, they should go to the website, which is a government-run website that compares health fund products.
STEVE PRICE: Is it easy or hard – because I’ve never tried to do it – to swap?
RACHEL DAVID: It’s really easy. It is simply a matter of calling the fund that you want to transfer to, and for the most part they will sort it out. There is very little issues with transferring over and very little paperwork, but it does pay to have a bit- have a detailed discussion or have a detailed look online about what it is that you’ll be moving to and what it is you’re buying. Because these days, most products do have some exclusions and it’s important you understand what you’re covered for.
STEVE PRICE: Yeah, you’ve got to know what you’re covered for. Thanks for your time, I appreciate it as usual, Rachel. Good on you.
RACHEL DAVID: No problem, Steve.
STEVE PRICE: Dr Rachel David there, Private Healthcare Australia CEO.
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