Shopping around for health insurance in Australia can prove a complex task, even for those who are not faced with the daunting prospect of physical or mental disabilities. Many a time, industry representatives, as well as regular consumers have complained about the complicated nature of the system, which does not seem to encourage income earners to take on extra coverage for their health care needs. We tested out this hypothesis and tried to compare private health insurance via one of the top free online tools; our research came up with great variations across demographics, income levels, benefits included, as well as states. Add to this the fact that private health insurance costs have gone up with the introduction of means testing and are also expecting premium cost increases and you’ve got a complex situation on your hands.
The most recent cost increase for private coverage in Australia rolled out this April, as the rebate was slashed for many families across the country. According to calculations of one industry representative, families who had previously benefitted from the full 30 per cent rebate could expect to see their costs go up by roughly 5 per cent, meaning an added cost of some $3.7 for each week of coverage. The same expert explained that the means testing will only make its presence felt at the end of the 2012-2013 financial year, as many policyholders managed to pre-pay their insurance in full before the end of the prior year. In simpler terms, although the measure to means test the rebate came into effect last year, its effects will genuinely start to be felt this year. Another noteworthy development in the field is that premiums for private health coverage have been rising at an average steady pace of circa 5.6 per cent during this period, adding on to the new extra costs.
A change – but is it for the better?
Another recent development in the field of health insurance in Australia is the recent debut of the DisabilityCare program. The plan, previously known as the National Disability Insurance Scheme, was piloted in four Australian states (including Tasmania, New South Wales, and Victoria). On July 1, 2013, it rolled out in all the other states, including South Australia. Its main focus here is to improve access to services for children with disabilities aged 14 and younger. Even though the initiative was met with a lot of enthusiasm and popular support in the state, as authorities pledged to endorse the new disability services insurance plan, some warning signs remain. Several figures involved in the disability services field argued that the strategy was yet to vague to prove lucrative. Meanwhile, others were pleased that people with disabilities all over Australia now have the opportunity to select the type of services they require, in order to become better integrated into society. One caregiver of a child with disabilities has expressed her happiness at being allowed a choice between several options.
Implementing DisabilityCare in Australia also bears effects on the public health insurance scheme in place in Australia, as funding the program involves a levy increase for Medicare. According to the new law, which passed Federal Parliament quickly, the Medicare tax will increase by .5 per cent, up from 1.5 to 2 per cent, starting with July 1, 2014. This move is expected to bring in an additional $20.4 billion to federal Medicare funds between 2014-2015 and 2018-2019, in order to partially fund a disability insurance scheme whose costs have been estimated at $22.2 billion for its first year of becoming fully operational (2019-2020).