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February 4, 2016

Australians demand more transparency from private health sector

A new survey has confirmed that Australians are finding it harder than ever to understand the private healthcare sector, and are crying out for easier to access simple, understandable, and comparable information.

The latest Medibank Health Check survey of more than 1500 people was conducted in January this year, and asked what information Australians wanted about private health insurance policies, private hospitals, and specialists.

More than half of those surveyed said they found the costs of private healthcare hard to understand.

Nearly all respondents wanted greater certainty about potential out-of-pocket costs, with almost two in three people ranking this information as the most important factor in how they choose private healthcare providers and private health insurance products.

As a whole sector, private healthcare rated poorly on transparency in comparison to other consumer industries. Almost 40 per cent of respondents ranked private healthcare below banking, utilities, telecommunications and travel. Only 10 per cent of respondents thought private healthcare was the easiest sector to understand.

Medibank Chief Medical Officer, Dr Linda Swan, said the survey findings highlight the need for the private healthcare sector to be more open and transparent about the price, performance and quality of services.

“Australians want to be able to easily find, understand, and compare information so they can make informed decisions about their private healthcare.”

“Australians should be able to know, for example, how much they might have to pay out of their own pocket between different specialists or hospitals, the outcomes they can expect from the care provided by different specialists, and what is included or excluded from their private health insurance cover,” Dr Swan said.

Medibank, in its recent submission to the Federal Government’s review into private health insurance, recommended a number of reforms to deliver improved transparency, affordability and value for Australians.

“We want to empower Australians to make informed decisions and better healthcare choices, whether that’s about which specialist they want to see, which hospital they want to go to, or which private health insurance product they should have,” Dr Swan said.

Medibank’s recommendations include improved information-sharing for consumers and insurers and standardised products and terminology.

“These reforms would not only help Australians to better understand the costs of private healthcare and allow them to make more informed choices, but could also drive improvement in the delivery of private healthcare services,” Dr Swan said.

Key findings of the survey include:

People find it hard to understand the costs of private healthcare:

  • Only 45 per cent of people agree that it’s easy to understand the costs of private healthcare.
  • Only 38 per cent believe private healthcare in Australia is affordable and value for money. This perception of private healthcare decreases with age, with only 22 per cent of people aged 55-64 agreeing that it is affordable.
  • There is a marked difference in perception of affordability of private healthcare between people with and without insurance cover. 48 per cent of people with insurance believe it is affordable, compared to only 24 per cent of people without insurance.

People want to understand more about different aspects of private health insurance:

  • Information about out-of-pockets expenses was the most important, with 65 per cent rating it as “very important” and 30 per cent as “important” (95 per cent want more information and to better understand out-of-pocket costs). The relative importance of understanding out-of-pocket costs increased with age, with 74 per cent of people aged 55-64 rating it as “very important”.
  • 43 per cent rated information about the quality of care as “very important”.
  • 40 per cent said information to allow them to compare the quality of different providers and hospitals was “very important”.

Simpler, easy to understand insurance policies rated as the best way to improve the private health insurance experience

  • 34 per cent rated simpler, easy to understand policies as the best way to improve their experience.
  • 29 per cent rated easy to understand information about out-of-pocket expenses as best way to improve their experience.
  • 21 per cent rated standardised terminology to enable comparison of services offered by different providers as “most important”.



About the Medibank Health Check:

This survey is the eighth in a series that aims to inform and provide insight into Australians perceptions and experiences of health care. This survey was conducted independently in January 2016, of 1514 Australians across all states and territories. Participants were aged 18 to over 65, with 873 (58 per cent) holding some level of private health insurance.

About Medibank:

Medibank is Australia’s leading private health insurer, providing private health insurance to approximately 3.9 million people through its Medibank and ahm brands. Customers can access Medibank’s products and services through more than 80 retail stores, as well as digital and telephone platforms. Medibank also provides a range of complementary healthcare services including healthcare management services for government and corporate clients, online and telephone-based health services and the distribution of travel, life and pet insurance.

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