MEDIA RELEASE: COTA Australia welcomes reforms to private health insurance

COTA Australia welcomes the package of reforms to private health insurance announced this morning by the Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt, and commends the government for its ongoing commitment to simplifying private health insurance and making it more affordable.

The package includes reforms to the costs of prostheses that will significantly reduce the costs of joint replacements and upward pressure on premiums.

Chief Executive of COTA Australia, Ian Yates, sits on the Private Health Ministerial Advisory Committee, which recommended many of the reforms and believes the reform package will be particularly beneficial for the many older Australians who have been struggling with the rising cost of private health insurance.

“Many older Australians value private health insurance as it allows them to avoid lengthy waiting lists for vital medical support such as hip and knee replacement and access to specialists of their choice for other illnesses, but they have had to make considerable sacrifices in order to keep the product,” said Mr Yates.

The package also includes the introduction of standardised clinical definitions to help consumers better understand and compare coverage of products.

“This will allow older Australians to more easily shop around for their private health insurance in what is currently a complex and difficult system to navigate, as will the introduction of Gold, Silver, Bronze and Basic categories for insurance products.

“We also welcome the establishment of an expert committee on transparency of out-of-pocket costs, to determine the best model to make information on out-of-pocket costs charged by doctors more transparent and to help Australians with private health insurance better understand out-of-pocket costs”, Mr Yates said, noting that unexpected charges are a major issue for older Australians on fixed incomes.

COTA Australia also welcomes the government’s commitment to improving access to travel and accommodation benefits for patients in regional and rural areas, which will relieve the pressure on patients and carers who need to travel for treatment away from home.

“Many of our members have retired in regional and rural areas and have to fork out considerable money for the cost of travel to a hospital to receive particular treatment.

“Older Australians deserve access to affordable and high-quality medical care, regardless of whether they live in inner city Sydney or remote Western Australia,” said Mr Yates.

COTA Australia is pleased by the proposed removal of the two month waiting period for upgrading psychiatric cover on a once-off basis and removing benefit limitation periods for mental health services.

“There is a high incidence of depression and other mental health conditions among older Australians but they experience greater difficulty than other cohorts in getting good mental health treatment.

“The reforms to private health insurance are a step in the right direction in this respect, said Mr Yates.

Media contact: Ian Yates 0418 835 439, Bronte Kerr 0411 676 269

COTA Australia is the peak policy development, advocacy and representation organisation for older Australians, representing COTAs in every State and Territory and through them over 500,000 older Australians.