THURSDAY, 25 JANUARY 2018
SUBJECT/S: Turnbull’s private health insurance hike
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE: I just want to make some commentary about the Government’s announcements today that it will be increasing private health insurance premiums yet again. Under this Government’s watch, Australian consumers are now paying $1000 more for their private health insurance and this announcement today that there is now a 3.9% on average increase in private health insurance premiums will hit consumers hard.
What we see is a Government who is willing to put the profits of private health insurers ahead of Australian consumers. We know with wages stagnant, with the cost-of-living increasing and increasing and increasing under this Government that Australians’ budgets are under pressure, and that this Government has taken a decision today to again increase private health insurance, putting the profits of private health insurance companies – which are doing very well at the moment – before of the interests of consumers, says everything about Malcolm Turnbull’s priorities when it comes to Australian families.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Are you ruling out similar price hikes under a Labor Government?
KING: We’ll have more to say about private health insurance in the coming weeks, but we’ll always make sure that for Australian consumers, who are suffering under a Government like this one – where wages are stagnant, where the costs of living are going up, that we will put their interests first.
JOURNALIST: Can you guarantee that premiums will be lower under a Labor Government?
KING: Certainly what I can say is that what we did in Government was to make sure that we worked with consumers, that we heard them very clearly that they were under pressure. And what we had, under Nicola Roxon for example, was not a rubber stamp, was going back to private health insurers, putting them under pressure, to really make sure that premiums would be as low as possible. But what we’ve seen under this Government, under successive years of this Government, is now a $1000 increase in private health insurance premiums, and the result of that we’re seeing – I think in the last quarter – 11,000 older people dropping their private health insurance because of affordability.
We’re also seeing increases in the gap payments, the extra costs that people are having to pay when they are accessing their private health insurance. What you’ll see from Labor is putting patients first, putting consumers first, not putting the profits of private health insurers first.
JOURNALIST: But you can’t give us any roadmap of how you’ll actually do that?
KING: We’ll have more to say on private health insurance, but I think what is becoming increasingly evident is that this product is becoming unaffordable for many Australians. That we’ve seen $1000 increase over the years of the Abbott/ Turnbull Government, and that increasingly we are seeing people drop their private health insurance. I think we are at crisis point when it comes to what is happening in this industry. We’ve seen Medibank privatised, something the Government told us would drive premiums down, we’ve seen profits of the private health insurers go up and up and up, and what we’ve seen is the cost of premiums, the cost of living for Australian consumers, Australian families, really get to crunch point where they are not able to afford this product any more.
JOURNALIST: So all you can really assure the Australian public is that you will attempt to keep them down?
KING: We’ll have more to say on private health insurance, but what I am disappointed about today is that the Turnbull Government has decided to put private health insurers’ profits ahead of Australian consumers. And as I said, when you’ve got such stagnant wage growth, when you’ve got increasing pressure on family budgets, this is the last thing Australians need to hear yet again that their private health insurance premiums will be going up by $180-200, now $1000 over the course of the Abbott/ Turnbull Government.