Private health insurers continue to return COVID-19 savings to customers – ACCC

Alliance welcomes report

Private health insurers continue to return COVID-19 savings to customers – ACCC

Life & Health

By Roxanne Libatique

Private health insurers across Australia have continued to give back their COVID-19 savings to their customers, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) Private Health Insurance Report 2022-23.

Insurer data submitted to the Department of Health and Aged Care includes industry-wide figures related to “permanent claims savings” and the total amount of money for “givebacks and relief” – measures taken by insurers to fulfil their pandemic-related commitments.

According to the ACCC's report, most private health insurers that submitted data to the Department of Health and Aged Care defined “permanent claims savings” as missing claims due to the COVID-19 pandemic, less claims expected to materialise in the future.

Insurers return COVID-19 savings to policyholders

As of June 30, 2023, private health insurers claimed that around $4.1 billion in claims will not materialise due to the impacts of COVID-19 (up from around $2.25 billion as of June 30, 2022). During the same period, they returned a whopping $3.5 billion to consumers to fulfil their pandemic-related commitments, with some reporting having returned permanent claims savings.

Other insurers outlined measures to return further COVID-19 savings to customers in 2023-24. The total of these planned measures, including givebacks returned between the end of the reporting period and the release of the APRA Private Health Insurance Report 2022-23, is over $840 million.

Private health insurers welcome ACCC report

Members Health Fund Alliance has welcomed the ACCC's Private Health Insurance Report 2022-23.

“The ACCC report delivers some positive news at a time when cost of living pressures are having a major impact on family household budgets,” said Members Health CEO Matthew Koce. “It is pleasing to see that the ACCC has verified that health funds are doing the right thing by their members. Members Health funds are run for people, not for profits. So, it only makes sense that any COVID-19 savings are returned to policyholders.”

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority's September 2023 quarter data showed an increased number of private health insurance members, reflecting Australians' appreciation of the high-quality healthcare delivered through the private system.

“Since COVID-19, participation in private health insurance has grown by a massive 975,000 Australians, with over 5.3 million being with a Members Health fund.” Koce said.

“The public health system was under strain before COVID-19, and things have only got worse, with public waiting lists stretching out into the years for some surgeries,” he said. “Having health insurance provides choice of doctor peace of mind around fast access to high-quality care. It also helps take pressure off public hospitals, with each private hospital admission freeing up a bed in the public system for those most in need.”

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