Media releases

May 30, 2001

Data shows people using private health insurance

The latest figures from Australia’s largest private health insurer, Medibank Private, show that members are using their private health insurance more.

The usage patterns of the almost three million persons insured by Medibank Private shows that the number of benefits for in-hospital procedures and extras totalled more than $1.4 billion in the 12 months to February, 2001.

Compared with the same period a year prior, this shows a 24 per cent increase in benefits nationally, with the biggest increases coming from Tasmania and NSW where benefits have increased by 49 pc and 33 pc respectively.

SA has had a 31 per cent increase in benefits, followed by Queensland (25 pc), NT (22 pc), and WA and Vic - both at 16 pc.

Medibank Private is confident that the level of benefits to members will increase significantly over the next few months as new entrants to private health insurance begin claiming for the first time once pre-existing ailment rules no longer apply and waiting periods have been served.


Increase in benefits paid out.

According to Medibank Private managing director, Mark Burrowes, what buoyed the fund’s confidence was the net acquisition of over 2,000 new members in a five-week long new member acquisition campaign that ran from mid April to mid May.

The fund’s enormous focus on member retention is also paying dividends, he says.

"In November last year we implemented a Health Cover Review program urging both new and existing members to review their cover to ensure they have the most appropriate cover for their needs.

"Since the implementation of the these reviews - of the 6,000 members who have undergone a review - as many as 40 per cent have changed their level of cover."

Mr Burrowes says Medibank Private’s move from being a "bill payer" to taking on an advocacy role for members will impact significantly on member retention.

"As a member advocate we will becoming increasingly involved in helping members navigate their way around the complex health system as well as promoting member well-being through a raft of new and practical services - including the provision of health information.

"Phase one of the transformation has provided our members with access to health information on the highly regarded Cochrane Collaboration Consumer Network website.

"The website provides members as well as the general public with access to evidence-based consumerised health information across a wide range of medical conditions, in addition to the very latest on medicine and drugs, surgery, alternate therapies as well as lifestyle and dietary changes.

"Since our members were provided with access to the information in early May, the number of visits to our website has doubled, from 1,000 visits a day to 2,000 - making Medibank Private the most visited private health insurance site."

Medibank Private is also addressing one of the key customer concerns about private health insurance - the complexity of the industry.

"Currently we are overhauling our brochures, our website and any communications we have with members and ensuring that information provided is as simple, direct and straightforward as reasonably possible.

"We have already begun work on the process and fully expect it to be complete over the next few months," says Mr Burrowes.

Private health insurers are also being criticised for the lack of information readily available to consumers about doctors who offer no gap services. Medibank Private is now rapidly moving towards providing its members with lists of doctors performing in-hospital and day surgery procedures under no gap arrangements.

"However, it is crucial that before doing anything, we consult fully with doctors. Their approval is critical to the success in reducing and eliminating our of pocket expenses," says Mr Burrowes.

However, he is confident of their support.

Since the introduction of the fund’s GapCover schemes, there has been a huge uptake by doctors using these schemes. Currently the figure stands at over 4,200 doctors nationally.

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