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    Membership surges with lifetime health cover

    Last week Australia's largest and only national health insurer, Medibank Private, sold health insurance cover to over 8,000 new members.

    Medibank Private's Managing Director, Mark Burrowes, said Australians have sought detailed information on private health insurance in unprecedented numbers since the beginning of the year, spurred on by the rewards inherent in Lifetime Health Cover for people who take out private hospital insurance before 1 July. "

    This year already, we have exceeded all previous records for membership growth, more than doubling our new member intake since January. The March quarter 2000 has seen a 33% increase in new members compared to the March quarter 1999. Our retail centres and call centres have been inundated with inquiries from people wanting to find out more about Lifetime Health Cover and how it will affect them personally. From these inquiries Medibank Private has achieved strong conversion to new memberships.

    "Our staff have been able to provide expert advice on the precise implications of Lifetime Health Cover, the advantages of the Federal Government's 30% Rebate and then advise the best health cover to suit different circumstances. Furthermore, our products, particularly PackagePlus, together with our GapCover offering, have meant that people considering buying private health insurance are choosing us in large numbers. GapCover gives our members certainty over their health costs."

    Mr Burrowes also attributed Medibank Private's success to highly competitive prices with no premium increase for any member on any product this year and extensive advertising and promotional campaigns.

    Mr Burrowes said Lifetime Health Cover has given added impetus to industry resurgence, which builds on other Government initiatives in private health insurance.

    "The industry is experiencing unparalleled levels of growth which began with the introduction of the Federal Government's 30% Rebate on premiums. The rebate reduces the cost of health insurance premiums by 30%. The rebate applies every year and has had the effect of reducing premium prices to 1991 levels. The introduction of the GST from 1 July 2000 will not impact Medibank Private premium prices. "

    Trading has been strong all year and we expect that business will be even busier as we move into the last two months of the grace period for joining a private health fund which ends on 1 July," Mr Burrowes said.