The ACCC’s call comes as the regulator released its annual report into the private health insurance industry. The report outlines the need for the industry to makes its products more consumer friendly by providing reliable and transparent information about product features and changes to private health insurance policies.
The report illustrates consumers’ growing frustration with the complexities of private health insurance policies and expected out-of-pocket costs that are leading to the regulator receiving increased complaints about policies, and signs that more consumers are choosing to abandon their hospital policies.
“Consumers rely on private health funds engaging with them honestly, so they can avoid unexpected out-of-pocket costs and make informed decisions about the policies they choose,” ACCC Acting Chair Delia Rickard said.
“However, we’ve found it’s currently very difficult for consumers to properly compare and choose policies for their needs, meaning many are shocked when presented with expensive bills for medical services and products they thought they were covered for.”
The ACCC also found that rising private health insurance premiums remained a significant issue for consumers. The report showed that, in response to higher prices, consumers were shifting to lower-cost policies with greater exclusions or a higher excess, or simply dropping their cover altogether.
The ACCC’s report comes as the federal government focuses in on reforms to the sector in and effort to make private health insurance simpler and more affordable. As part of the reforms announced at the end of last year, the government will require private health insurance providers to categories their policies into a ‘gold/silver/bronze/basic’ arrangement.
The government’s reforms have already seen Australia’s medical technology (medtech) innovators accept a $1.1 billion cut, over four years, to help reduce the cost of private health insurance for consumers.
Medtech sector leaders were in Canberra last week for meetings with government and opposition decision-makers as part of an ongoing effort to ensure every cent of the $1.1 bullion cut is directly passed through to consumers.
The ACCC has said it will continue to closely consider competition and consumers aspects of any government reforms to the sector.