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Medibank Private and Bupa have failed Australians during COVID-19: CHOICE

Private health insurers named and shamed for poor COVID-19 support.

Medibank Private and Bupa have come last in a CHOICE analysis of private health COVID-19 responses.

"Medibank Private and Bupa have failed Australians during COVID-19," says Dean Price, health campaigner at CHOICE.

"The two biggest funds have performed the worst when it comes to helping Australians during COVID-19. The biggest funds should have the most capacity to help their customers, but instead they're being shown up by not for profit and smaller funds who have less capacity, but have chosen to put the community first."

"With people struggling during this economic and health crisis, people are keen to do what is best for their health and their finances, but Medibank Private and Bupa need to do a lot more to help Australians through this," says Price.

Profiting from COVID-19

With reports earlier this month that insurers pocketed $1 billion in the space of 42 days, CHOICE says there's no excuse for Medibank Private and Bupa to continue with price rises on October 1st.

"With Victoria in lockdown again and unemployment still rising, it's just outright greed for Medibank Private and Bupa to charge Australians more on October 1st. These companies are saving massive amounts of money while people are unable to use many health services - companies increasing prices is simply taking advantage of the situation," says Price.

PR puffery versus real help

"CHOICE presented the five major health funds with five areas of COVID-19 support they could improve, with the simplest being transparency - publishing their hardship policies so people can find out what they're entitled to and how to get help. Instead of telling customers what help they're eligible for, Medibank Private and Bupa sent out media releases and continued to make people jump through hoops," says Price.

"While their marketing departments have been quick to tell the community how they're helping but our research has found a lot left to be desired in their COVID-19 responses."

How did the rest fare?

"HBF came out on top of the list as they are the only fund so far that has cancelled this year's premium increase," says Price. 

"In an example of industry leadership, HBF deserves to be recognised for its decision not to increase premiums in the middle of this pandemic. This is in stark contrast to the other funds who are increasing their premiums on 1 October. Other sectors, like banking and utilities, have recognised that the impact of this pandemic is going to be felt for a long time to come and extended their response beyond 1 October. The private health insurance industry needs to keep up with these industries who have acted more fairly," says Price.

CHOICE is calling on private health insurers to:

- Not increase premiums on 1 October

- Give any windfall gains back to customers

- Let people use any unused extras next year

- Have hardship policies in place for people who have lost their job

- Publish their hardship policies online

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Infographic available for embedding here: https://infogram.com/private-health-insurance-covid-19-scorecard-2020-1hke60dk7wj325r?live 

Media contact: Katelyn Cameron, media@choice.com.au, 0430 172 669