Health insurance premiums are set to skyrocket in 2018, as the Federal Government aims to slash costs in a bid to boost the economy and curb the spiralling costs of COVID-19.
But the new costs are likely to hit people with low incomes hardest.
So far, the Government has slashed the Medicare age for the private insurance sector from 65 to 50, and is looking to increase the Medicare premium to help boost the overall economy, but has ruled out a Medicare rebate.
In a statement on Monday, the Federal Health Minister, Peter Dutton, said the Government was “reviewing the eligibility for Medicare premium support to ensure that it is appropriate and affordable for low-income Australians”.
“Our priority for 2018 is to reduce the number of Australians who are living in poverty,” he said.
But in the meantime, Mr Dutton has been urging Australians to think about the cost of their premiums.
“If you’ve got an old-age pension, or you’ve had a heart attack, you’re still paying your premiums, so why should you pay more than your income?” he said on Monday.
“Why should you put more money into your pocket than your future income?”
“It’s a little bit like if you’ve just got a house, you’ve still got to buy a new house every six months.
That’s a lot of money.”
Mr Dutton said people who are at a lower income would pay less because they’d receive lower rates of income support, and that people with a higher income would also benefit from the cut.
But many experts believe there is a problem with the Government’s thinking.
“We’ve heard from the medical community that the premiums on COVID vaccines are going to go up massively,” Dr Stephen Green from the University of Queensland told RN.co.uk.
“They are not necessarily going to be able to compete with the COVID medicines, so if you have an old age pension, for example, you may not be able even to afford the COID vaccine, because you’re paying so much.”
“But if you don’t have a COVID vaccine, you can’t afford to buy COID vaccines, and then you’re not receiving a COID vaccination.”‘
I’m afraid my family will have to take on more COVID risk’Read moreDr Green said a number of factors, including the cost, the number and complexity of COV vaccines, the complexity of the cost-sharing arrangements for COVID vaccinations and the cost to the Government, would lead people to choose to buy the COV vaccine, rather than a COV-19 vaccine.
“I’m concerned that there are a number who are going in for the COVI vaccine, or for the CIV vaccine, and they may have to bear a higher risk of COVI,” he told RN, adding the Government would need to provide more information to families to make a decision.
“It doesn’t seem to be making a decision on what the price should be.”
Dr Green also said the government should consider capping the amount of money people can deduct for COV vaccinations, which are estimated to cost the taxpayer $8.8 billion in 2018-19, before introducing a national COV plan.
“You could say if you’re at $7,000, that means you can deduct $7.8 million from your income,” he added.
My family will be putting their health in jeopardy’While it’s understood many people are concerned about the potential impact on their finances, many also fear that the Government is making it difficult for low income families to access affordable health coverage.””
That would be enough to cover your COVID insurance premiums, but it would be insufficient for the cost sharing, and therefore it would put the Government at a disadvantage.”‘
My family will be putting their health in jeopardy’While it’s understood many people are concerned about the potential impact on their finances, many also fear that the Government is making it difficult for low income families to access affordable health coverage.
“The government is making life harder for people who can’t pay,” said Dr Green.
“There are very few people who have access to health insurance.”‘
There’s no doubt we’re under a very dangerous time’Dr Green suggested the Government could be “very well” in danger of making a mistake if it decided to “cut the cost out of the COVR” or the COVE vaccines.
“Some of the experts we’ve spoken to, I’m afraid they’re saying the cost could go up to $6,000,” he explained.
“For some people, that could be very costly, and for others it could be quite cheap.”
“The Government could then cut back the amount they can spend on COVR and COVE, which could mean the government would have to make changes to the Medicare rebate scheme.”‘
We are a nation of doctors’It’s estimated that COVID costs the Government around $US7 billion in health-related expenses each year, and the costs are only expected to increase over the next few years.
The cost of CO