SENIOR citizen Geoff Pitt says fellow Ballarat pensioners will hurt emotionally and financially in another health insurance premium rise.
Mr Pitt said most pensioners felt caught – they need extras vital to their health, but struggle to meet the costs to keep them.
“Some people can’t downgrade (premiums) because they need them, that’s why they take them out in the first place,” Mr Pitt said. “They can’t afford to give it a miss...we know the public health system is doing its best but there is that waiting period. Can they (pensioners) afford to wait? No. A lot of the procedures they need have to just get done.”
Mr Pitt is Ballarat City Senior Citizens’ president. He was concerned of talk about his club in the wake of a federal government announcement this week that premiums were set to rise by an average 5.59 per cent from next month. This increase is the ninth in a row of five per cent-plus increases.
While Mr Pitt managed all right on his pension with just himself to worry about, he said it was often tougher for couples with double the insurance and medical expense.
“We have worked so many years to retire and to me, an increase is wrong,” Mr Pitt said. “In a couple on a tight budget, it would have to get you down, especially if you see your partner suffering because you can’t afford to get anything done.
“That would have to play on your mind.”
Twenty Australian funds lowered their hike demands after federal health minister Sussan Ley requested insurers resubmit applications for premium increases. The result was the smallest price increase in four years and below the long-term average of 6.1 per cent.
Ms Ley chalks it up as a win for consumers and in a statement said an average family with hospital and general health cover would save $166 a year from the review, but premium increases vary, depending on the insurer.
Ballarat MP and Labor health spokeswoman Catherine King said the impending increase was still three times the current rate of inflation and would cost families about $200 extra per year.
“What we have seen under the Turnbull Government after the past two years, they waved through the highest increases in health insurance premiums in a decade,” Ms King said. “They have come to the party very late – they are trying to get congratulated for this latest rise – I think consumers will see it for exactly what it is, another hit on their hip pocket.”
Under legislation, private health insurers must apply to the health minister for approval of their premium changes. The increases usually apply from April 1. This was the first time in three years insurers have been asked to resubmit.
Ms King said these were hard negotiations.
“Certainly my view is that the government needs to do what it did this time: sit down with private health insurers, make them absolutely justify those increases, look at where there can be some pressure taken off in private health insurance,” Ms King said. “It’s what the government has done...that’s a good thing, but it hasn’t done that for the past two years.”
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