Maintaining general good health and wellbeing is a priority for many Australians, so private health insurance can be a no-brainer. However, finding the right policy is often complex, and it can be all too easy to switch off to the nuances and end up with an agreement that isn't a precise fit.
Many Australians are unaware of the exclusions of their health insurance policies.
While doing research is certainly a good starting point, is the industry at large doing enough to educate consumers who are attempting to find the best coverage?
Cutting through the complexity
Well, a report released by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) surmised that the majority of health funds are losing their customers with complexity. Specifically, the ACCC identified the fact that a growing number of Australians are unaware of the exclusions of their policies.
There are some 11 million Australian consumers holding five million policies across the country. However, few are best educated on precisely what's right for them. The ACCC broke down its findings into three key points that it hopes the wider industry will soon address:
- There are failures in allowing consumers the opportunity to accurately compare policies, and fairly assess the medical needs they may have in the future.
- Insurers occasionally respond to demand for affordable policies, which can leave some customers with out-of-pocket expenses in the long term.
- There needs to be more transparency between all health funds and the applicable consumer laws.
"Consumers may encounter significant difficulty in determining what a procedure will cost and how the relationship between their insurer and the relevant practitioner or hospital will affect this cost," explained ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.
"It is in the interests of both consumers and industry to be as clear and transparent as possible so that consumers who are purchasing insurance can make the best decisions about their level of coverage," she continued.
— ACCC (@acccgovau) October 20, 2015
A growing industry
The importance of clarity between health funds and their policyholders cannot be underplayed, especially as the private health insurance industry on the whole continues to grow. In fact, news.com.au explained that it is now worth $21.1 billion.
Consequently, ACCC tried to build the big picture from the consumer perspective, surveying more than 1,000 policyholders. They found that the general calls were for more transparency, especially when carrying out a health insurance comparison or potentially looking to amend their current arrangement.
"Whether a consumer is purchasing health insurance for the first time, or reviewing and renewing a policy after many years, they have to navigate through a range of issues to make an informed decision," Ms Rickard concluded.
The $21.1 billion health insurance industry is failing us. https://t.co/2JOZmins2f
— news.com.au (@newscomauHQ) October 20, 2015
Lending a helping hand
The ACCC is set to continue its research for the foreseeable future, and strives to create an environment for health insurance that has the customer's best interests at heart. However, for those that are looking to search out a new – or amend their existing – policy, what are the best steps to take?
Well, while the ACCC may have found that there is a lack of transparency for those consumers who are going it alone, expert advice can aid the pursuit of the right policy.
To that end, HICA can offer impartial help that allows you to avoid some of the pitfalls highlighted by the ACCC. If you'd like to find out more about private health insurance in Australia, or even learn how you're current arrangement is fairing, call one of our experts on 1300 44 22 01 for a cost-free consultation.