Today I introduced legislation into Parliament to deliver a wide ranging package of reforms to make private health insurance simpler and more affordable.
We know that every dollar matters to Australian families and these reforms will get better value for families and make policies easier to understand.
Already, our package of real reforms has delivered the lowest annual premium change in 17 years. At 3.95 per cent, it's far lower than every year under the Rudd and Gillard governments.
But we must continue to drive better value policies for every Australian. Private health insurance is an essential and valuable part of the Australia’s health system.
From Sunday (April 1) people with hospital insurance that does not offer full cover for mental health treatment will be able to upgrade their cover and access mental health services without a waiting period on a one-off basis. This will significantly enhance the value of private health insurance.
Until now, as a result of having either a basic or medium private hospital cover, many patients needing urgent access to mental health services have had restricted access and faced possible large out–of–pocket hospital expenses.
Currently, if patients take the option of upgrading their policy, they have been subject to a two month waiting period – time many patients can’t afford to wait. This will now change and it will be available straight away.
We are encouraging younger Australians to take up private health insurance by allowing insurers to discount hospital insurance premiums for 18 to 29 year olds by up to 10 per cent. The discount will phase out after people turn 40. This is a key element of the legislation introduced today.
The reforms brought before Parliament today also include more support for Australians in regional and rural areas, allowing insurers to offer travel and accommodation benefits for people in regional and rural areas that need to travel for treatment.
Consumers will also be able to voluntarily increase their maximum excesses, to save money through lower premiums.
We are also investing around $6.4 billion every year in the private health insurance rebate to help keep premiums affordable.
This is in stark contrast to Labor’s plan to reduce policy choices and increase premiums by around 16 per cent – making it unaffordable for many Australian families.
Labor’s policies would also lead to higher out of pocket costs and longer waiting times.
Last time Labor were in government they increased private health by over 5.5% per year over their entire 6 years and also broke their own promise and cut the rebate.
The Turnbull Government is committed to the more than 13 million Australians that have private health insurance and it is vital that cover is affordable and provides value for money.
There are 37 private health insurance funds operating in Australia and I encourage consumers to shop around to get the best deal for themselves and their families.
Independent advice on health insurance — free of commissions — is available online at www.privatehealth.gov.au