75% of Australians want health funds forced to use profits to lower prices

Three-quarters of Australians support Health Minister Greg Hunt using his official powers to reject health fund premium increases over 3 per cent for next year – and forcing insurers to dip into their own $1 billion profits to pay for it.

The results are from a YouGov survey of over 1000 Australians that also found the majority of respondents (65%) thought price increases over 3 per cent next year – twice the inflation rate – was “not in the public interest”.

Ian Burgess, CEO of the Medical Technology Association of Australia, who commissioned the poll, said the public clearly supported the Government “standing strong” in the face of insurer threats to retaliate by blocking patient access to critical medical devices and refusing to reimburse their claims.

“The ‘Big 3’ corporate health insurers – Medibank, Bupa and NIB – have not paid once extra cent for medical devices in the past two premium years, despite raising premiums twice-inflation and pocketing nearly $1 billion in profits between them,” Mr Burgess said.

“The Federal Government’s agreement with MTAA has successfully delivered more Australians more access to more medical devices at less cost to insurers - and premiums should be going down, not up, as per the Minister’s direction today.

“Insurers are threatening to block patient access to the very medical devices that hold our world-class health system together.

“Thousands of patients and surgeries across Australia – from bone breaks, to caesareans, to transplants – will be instantly impacted by this insurer cash grab and cause chaos in hospitals across the country, including public hospital waiting lists.”

The Federal Government is currently assessing private health insurance premium submissions for next year. Under Federal legislation, the Health Minister must sign off on an insurer’s proposed increase “unless satisfied that a change would be contrary to the public interest”.

On 18 November 2019, MTAA called for the Federal Government to reject any premium increases about 3 per cent – twice inflation – after analysis of official APRA data on Monday proved medical device costs to health insurers had gone backwards over the past two premium years – and exposed insurer claims they were pushing up premiums as a “sham and a scam”.

The MTAA’s Agreement with the Federal Government has already saved insurers a total of $390 million off the cost of medical devices and is on track to exceed the $1.1 billion in total expected savings.