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    Run for private hospital cover brings joiners brief reprieve

    Federal Health Minister, Dr Michael Wooldridge, has announced a short reprieve for Australians wanting to take advantage of the Government's highly successful Lifetime Health Cover initiative.

    People will now have until 15 July to apply for hospital cover. Policies will be backdated so new members will still pay premiums as if they joined by 30 June, and their health fund will cover them from that date.

    "The numbers of Australians running for cover has been overwhelming, and while it's not possible to push out the deadline, we will provide this 15 day window to ensure no one is disadvantaged due to administrative overloads on the funds. "I have been advised by the health funds that there has been unprecedented demand for information from consumers."

    Medibank Private recently reported they had around 80,000 new applicants in June and were receiving 13,000 calls a day. Similarly, HCF was getting 5000 calls a day, and MBF had received 380,000 calls in the last month. "As a result, people are experiencing long delays and queues in their efforts to take out private hospital cover by the 30 June deadline.

    "I recently indicated that I would consider an arrangement if the level of demand was such that it was possible some people would be disadvantaged, while being fair to those who have already joined. "This 15 day window addresses both issues." Dr Wooldridge said a national TV advertisement would air informing people that while they could still take advantage of the benefits of Lifetime Health Cover until 15 July, they would be required to pay their premiums as if they joined hospital insurance by June 30.

    The commercial would also reinforce the fact that our public system, Medicare, is there for all of us. Lifetime Health Cover is about restoring the balance between the public and private system and rewarding long term members of private health insurance. "Funding for our public hospital system is at an all time high.

    This Government's commitment to Medicare is unflagging. "So far, we have now had five consecutive quarterly increases in private health insurance membership, and I am confident there is more good news to come."