Why you could be ripped off under new health cover
SWEEPING changes to private health insurance due to start next month could leave some patients worse off despite Government assurances, according to the nation's peak doctors' group.
The Australian Medical Association wants a beefed-up education campaign in the lead-up to the changes on April 1 amid fears patients will be unwittingly ripped off.
The warnings come as a survey by comparison site Finder showed more than half of private health insurance policy holders had never heard of the changes just weeks before they start.
From April 1, health insurance funds will be forced to classify all policies into one of four tiers - gold, silver, bronze or basic - in a bid to make it easier for consumers to compare them.
Each classification has minimum levels of private hospital cover but it is unclear whether health insurers will maintain existing offerings that are above the minimum.
Insurers will have one year to transition.
Major funds including Medibank, Bupa and NIB have already written to members warning they will axe a range of benefits because of the reforms.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has previously said the changes would not increase costs for patients, claiming the likely impact would be "between 0 and -0.3 per cent in terms of prices".
But AMA president Tony Bartone said while changes were needed to simplify health insurance, they could also be used as an excuse for funds to charge more for the same cover.
"The real test will be in the coming months as we watch closely to see how insurers add or remove coverage for particular conditions or procedures as they adapt existing policies to the new system," Dr Bartone told The Courier-Mail.
"We cannot have a situation where people end up paying more than they are now for the same coverage, or paying the same for less."
As a mum of two, Sarah Boase of Archerfield said health insurance was expensive but worth it.
As a family of four, Ms Boase estimates she pays around $270 per month for health cover, but believes it's cheaper than paying the cost of routine health checks.
"We've tailored our insurance to focus on the areas we need most, rather than paying for things we won't use," she said.