Media releases

October 1, 2001

Medibank Private turns 25

Australia's largest private health fund celebrates a quarter century by looking forward to an expanded role promoting "wellness" and assisting members navigate their way round the complexities of the health system.

According to Medibank Private managing director, Mark Burrowes, the health fund is in the process of moving away from being just a 'bill payer' to becoming a health solutions company - a process that will gradually be implemented over the next three years.

"What we mean by this is that we will actively assist members move about the health system while at the same time promoting their well-being through a raft of new and practical services - including the provision of health information.

"Phase one of this transformation has seen us assisting our members access quality, evidence-based health information from the highly-regarded Cochrane Collaboration Consumer Network website.

"We have also led the way in providing our members with a list of no and known gap doctors which they can access by coming to our website.

"In fact, both initiatives have seen the number of visits to our website increase to an average of 2,000 a day - making it the most visited private health insurance website."

Mr Burrowes says the need to add value has been driven by the massive influx of Australians into private health insurance - particularly a much younger group of people - who are more inclined to both question and challenge the status quo

"For some time now we have been strongly advocating that health funds need to be more than bill payers and that they need to provide customers with much greater value.

"We are now delivering on this promise," he says.

However, Mr Burrowes emphasises that private health insurance will always remain Medibank Private's core business.

As part of Medibank Private's 25th celebrations, the health fund will be offering its memberships the chance to win $25,000 while memberships taken up between 1 October and 10 November will receive 25 days free.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND - Medibank Private turns 25

While Medibank Private officially came into existence on 1 October, 1976, the origins of the fund can be traced to the mid '70s to a decision by then Labour government to establish a universal health scheme.

The scheme would be known as Medibank and would be administered by the newly created Health Insurance Commission (HIC).

However, the Medibank program - which got off the ground in mid 1975 - was to be short-lived with a change in government four months later.

The incoming Liberal/Coalition Government under Malcolm Fraser decided to maintain Medibank in a modified form and also decided that the HIC would enter private health insurance under the name Medibank Private.

Despite a rushed beginning, by the end of its first year the health fund had become the fund with the second highest membership in Australia and by its fifth birthday, was the No 1 fund.

It was during the same year that last vestige of the original Medibank concept was finally abolished, to be replaced in 1984 by Medicare.

By the time Medibank Private had celebrated its 10th birthday, the fund was a $400 million a year business which was independently managed and totally self-funded.

Its next major milestone came in early 1997 when the Federal Government announced it would establish Medibank Private as a separate company, transferring ownership from the HIC to the Commonwealth Government, which became the key shareholder.

The very next year, MPL became a government business enterprise, with the Commonwealth's ownership interested represented by two shareholder ministers - the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Dr Michael Wooldridge, and the Minister for Finance, John Fahey.

What was to be the another major milestone for the both Medibank Private and the private health insurance industry at large was the introduction of the 30 per cent rebate and Lifetime Health Cover (LHC) Federal Government initiatives.

The two initiatives - which came into effect between November 1999 and July, 2000 - were to have a profound effect on the Medibank Private, increasing its coverage of Australians from 2 million to 3 million.

Of the 3 million Australians who are Medibank Private members, almost 100,258 have been members of the fund since its inception.

A $2 billion revenue organisation, Medibank Private now holds 30.7 per cent of the private health insurance market in Australia.

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