With a new decade upon us, the time is right for the private health insurance industry to look at more innovative ways to provide valued care to members at an affordable price.
The industry has started the 2020s on a positive note, delivering the lowest average rate increase in 19 years in a market that has traditionally been a funder of sickness.
However, we believe for health insurance to remain a valued option for the wider community, where wage growth is low, the sector needs to come up with ways to deliver the same or better health benefits and become a funder of health and wellness.
The Australian private health insurance system is founded on the concept of fairness and equity through community rating, meaning everyone pays the same for the same policy regardless of their age, whether they claim periodically or are healthy.
This system means that private health care is accessible for all Australians, but it does come with its own challenges - namely balancing the needs and wants of our younger and older members.
We are entering a period where advances in medical technology mean people are living longer, and with many more chronic illnesses. This means there are more hospital admissions than ever before and with an ageing population this creates its own challenges for the whole health sector.
How do you create value for younger, healthier members when a larger proportion of those with insurance are aged over 50?
While media reports are quick to say that people are leaving private health insurance in their hoards, statistics released at the end of 2019 show this simply isn’t true.
The not-for-profit sector of health insurers, of which St.LukesHealth is one, has experienced a year of above industry average membership growth of 2.85 per cent, while the rest of the industry experienced growth of 0.6 per cent.
St.LukesHealth has appeared as a strong player in the market with our 2019 membership growing at 4.88 per cent. The average age of our membership continues to fall and is now 45 whilst the average age of those currently joining the fund is 36. We believe this is because we offer value to all our members regardless of their age or health status.
For those members who are maybe older and chronically ill, St.LukesHealth not only provides great benefits but also offers an Advanced Preventive Care Program through our healthcare services arm, Salveo Healthcare Services. This program uses a variety of criteria to help members manage their illness with the aim of leading to a better quality of life.
Snug, which St.LukesHealth pioneered through Snug Health, was made free to members at the end of last year and allows members of all ages to keep track of their health, fitness goals, diabetes measurements, medications and hospital visits and child development milestones, amongst other things.
We know you want more in the preventative health space and take advantage of the Gap Free Preventative Dental programs for your families. In 2019, St.LukesHealth paid 55 per cent of benefits for preventative dental compared to just 36 per cent in 2013.
And in an effort to offer more for those aged under 50, we have invested in understanding what you want through our Tasmanian Health Report and member surveys.
As a result, we will unveil the Nourish Baby Program to expectant parents early this year while offering further benefit in the mental health space.
- Paul Lupo