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Australian share of private health insurance declines The involvement of private health insurance is continuing its downwards spiral, as the latest figures show. According to the Australia Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), the number of persons with private insurance is at its low since June 2011. Michael Roff, Chief Executive of the Australia Private Hospitals Association (APHA), said the downturn must be slowed and insurance companies must take the benefits of healthcare reform to enhance their product and demonstrate its value to them.

"Only 45.6 per cent of Australians - just over 11 million - have health insurance, a decline of around 12,300 fewer this year and more than 21,000 over the year. "In addition, more than 40 per cent of hospitals' coverage contains exemptions, so Australians may find that their coverage is not as comprehensive as they believe it to be, and they may be in for a bad blow if they need it.

"All too often, private clinics have to tell vulnerable Australians in need of nursing that their private health insurance will not provide for a process they thought was covered. It is no wonder that humans do not recognize their value," he said. Mr Roff said Australians want private health insurance companies that they can readily comprehend, that they can readily relate to, that suit their needs and that have shared health terminology.

All these are goals, but they are not yet a reality for the health insurance reforms. "We welcome the steps taken by the federal government to review private health insurance to better meet the needs of the population. These latest figures show that health insurance funds have a great deal to do to persuade individuals that they have value for their money or know their policies," he said.

APRA also shows that private clinics bear a large part of the health costs with 1.2 million treatments per year. "This is an improvement of 2.6 per cent compared to the previous year and relieves the strain on the local government system," said Mr Roff. Whilst private clinics play their part, private clinics do not help their own waitlists by placing private health insurance holders in the queue in front of them.

During the year, the number of private health insurance holders in government clinics increased by 1.4 per cent, leading to more patient distress on the waitlist for those who cannot provide private nursing services. "We are delighted that the heads of the Commonwealth and state agreements on financing are trying to tackle this issue.

Now, it is costing private health insurance companies 1.5 billion dollars each year in services, an unnecessarily shifting expense that leads to higher premium rates. Its also putting those least able to afford at the bottom of the health care pile - exactly the opposite of what Medicare was designed in order to deliver," Mr. Roff said.

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