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NIB’s COVID actions “will hurt their customers”: CHOICE

October 1st shows customers which private health insurers will really support them in a crisis.

Consumer advocate CHOICE has slammed private health insurer NIB for raising prices during COVID, rolling back hardship support and for having some of the worst hospital surgery payouts of the big funds.

The strong rebuke comes as the majority of private health insurers raise their prices on October 1st.

"October 1st is a day that shows people which private health insurers will really support them in a crisis. Some funds have chosen not to increase premiums this year, recognising the financial strain that many Australians are facing, while funds like NIB are raising prices on hospital insurance," says CHOICE Health Campaigner Dean Price.

"Not only is NIB raising their hospital insurance prices in the midst of a global health and economic crisis, they're rolling back support for customers who are struggling and their low level of payouts for surgery sets a bad example. NIB's actions will hurt their customers," says Price.

NIB is raising premiums on hospital cover and is set to roll back hardship provisions introduced to support customers through COVID-19 as of October 1st. Recent reports have also found NIB are one of the worst offenders from the big funds when it comes to protecting their members from out-of-pocket costs.

October 1st shows which funds are protecting customers

While some smaller and non profit funds (HBF, TUH, health.com.au and AIA) have done the right thing by Australians and put a hold on price rises this year, Australia's largest funds and industry lobby have focused on playing PR games.

"Health funds are showing just how out-of-touch they are by putting their premiums up in the middle of this economic and health crisis. People are already feeling financial stress and these price hikes are just going to hurt more Australians. It is likely that they will put prices up again in another six months time unless Minister Hunt does something to stop this," says Price.

For Australians worried about the cost of their healthcare, CHOICE says:

- Speak to your health fund and demand a discount on your premiums. If you're not getting value for money, switch funds.

- If COVID-19 has affected your income, you may qualify for hardship from your fund and other essential services. Speak to the non profit National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 for advice on accessing hardship.

- Assess whether you need private health insurance. The industry has been warned in the past by the ACCC for potentially misleading Australians about the tax implications of private health. CHOICE's DoINeedHealthInsurance.com.au can help you figure out if private health insurance will impact your tax.

- Be aware that every Australian can drop their private hospital insurance for 1094 days without being punished by a Lifetime Cover Surcharge when they take it up again.

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