Alliance raises concerns over new health insurance extras

07 June 2024
Hospital hallway

The National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) voices concern over new extras offered by some of Australia’s biggest health insurers with the claim that they will be an offset to high premiums.

A major private health insurer is now trialling a new scheme offering three free virtual General Practitioner (GP) visits each year with extras cover. Other health insurance companies are exploring similar “perks”. Such new offers need special approval from the Department of Health and Aged Care, as private insurers are currently prohibited from out-of-hospital medical services like GP visits and certain diagnostic testing.  

“While this might appear beneficial for consumers in reducing the cost-of-living crisis, a reduction in private health premiums and increased support on out-of-pocket costs is much more meaningful. Primary care is not the core business of private health insurers. Entering the primary care part of the health system without collaboration or being part of the existing primary care team can exacerbate the healthcare accessibility challenges already prevalent in rural, regional and remote communities,” said the Alliance Chief Executive Susi Tegen.

“The remit for private insurers is to fund tertiary, secondary and extras care and do so generously and equitably, rather than expand into primary care. Patients deserve holistic care with their multidisciplinary primary care providers, who know the patient's journey rather than confuse the patient and care providers.

“Expansion into primary care could also detract from vital government support for local services in rural and remote areas that need continuous funding. While virtual GP consultations may partly suffice for certain health issues, they cannot replace face-to-face health care. It can also potentially impact the continuity of care.

“Rates of private health insurance coverage reduce with remoteness. So, it would be much more helpful if the private health insurance industry provided more support and equity to those who are covered under private health insurance, but are not able to access the full complement of services and rebates purely, due to their postcode,” Ms Tegen said.

The Alliance urges the government to reassess these developments concerning primary healthcare funding of services and ensure that rural communities and their clinicians are supported to provide services and are not left out in the healthcare equation.

Media Enquiries: 

Kathya de Silva, Media and Communications Officer, National Rural Health Alliance,

[email protected] 0470 487 608

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