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    Close on 3 million to be covered by medibank private

    THE number of people poised to be insured by Australia's largest health insurer, Medibank Private, is set to reach 2,833,458 - 47 per cent up on the number of people insured by the fund as at 1 January this year.

    Of that number, over 950,000 joined Medibank Private between January and July.

    Commenting on the enormous increase in people covered by health insurance during the Lifetime Health Cover period, Medibank Private managing director, Mark Burrowes, says the figures have exceeded the fund's wildest expectations.

    "Back in January, we had estimated that between 172,000 and 300,000 additional people would enter the fund - if Lifetime Health Cover community awareness was high.

    "To achieve over 950,000 is astonishing!"

    According to the latest Australian Health Insurance Association (AHIA) monthly indicator, over 1,787,396 additional people entered private health insurance between January and July this year for hospital cover. Of this total, 831,359 were insured by Medibank Private.

    Table 1
    Persons covered between Jan-July, 2000

    The AHIA sample covers 19 funds, which collectively cover more than 84 per cent of the insured population. Final industry figures and market share outcomes will be confirmed when the industry regulatory body, PHIAC, publishes its June and September quarter data.As the graph on the following page indicates, the number of people covered by Medibank Private began rising significantly in January with the start of the Federal Government's LHC national campaign.

    The launch of Medibank Private's "packaged" products (hospital and extras) in March, saw further increases in new memberships. Coupled with the recommencement of Federal Government's LHC marketing campaign in May, this really spurred things on.

    The number of people entering private health insurance reached an all-time high in June, when new memberships climbed to over 130,000, with over 336,000 people taking cover with Medibank.

    Graph 1 - month by month joins during LHC

    What has been particularly significant is the profile of new members in the Jan-June period. There was a significant growth trend in the number of people in the 30-55 age group. This age group accounts for the lion's share of persons covered by private health insurance. (See graph 2)

    Graph 2 - New to Fund Age Profile during LHC

    When it comes to the types of policies taken out over the past 6.5 months, packaged products have dominated - with over 65 per cent of new members choosing this type of cover. The Federal Government's 30 per cent rebate and the attractiveness of PackagePlus have encouraged this.

    A minority of new memberships have purchased hospital-only products during this period, just 10 per cent. However, the purchasing of hospital-only cover did accelerate as the LHC deadline approached. (See graph 3)

    Graph 3 - Choice of policy taken out during LHC period.

    Mr Burrowes says the enormous uptake of packaged products in an indication that private health insurance consumers are being more discerning about their purchases, ensuring that what they buy suits their life-stage rather than simply buying the cheapest product to lock themselves into LHC base-rate premiums.