Station: 3AW
Program: Mornings
Date: 4/1/2021
Time: 9:12 AM
Compere: Tony Jones
Interviewee: Ben Harris, Director of Policy and Research, Private Healthcare Australia


TONY MOCLAIR: But I did mention this earlier about young people who’ve been now given a six-year lifeline on mum and dad’s life insurance. This year, young people can stay under their parent’s health insurance until the age of 31. Now, the Federal Government has extended that age limit from 25 to 31 to health funds. So, what do you think? I mean, is it – is it fair? Or over time, the young ones need to learn to actually stand on their two feet ad this is certainly part of that.

Love to hear from young people under 31 as well – 96-900-693-1313-32 for those younger people. Are you comfortable doing this? Do you think, do you think it’s a win for you? And if you’re mum and dad, are you a little- a little peeved about the whole thing?

Joining me now is Ben Harris, the Director of Policy and Research at the Private Health Care of Australia – the industry’s peak body. Good morning.

BEN HARRIS: Morning, Tony.
TONY MOCLAIR: Do you support this?
BEN HARRIS: Yeah, we do. Private health funds recognise that an increasing number of young people depend on their parents through their 20’s. We’ve got more people living at home, more people studying and at the moment we’ve got many, many more young people out of work. So an arbitrary age cut-off at 24, 25 is leaving young people without the private health options, so we think it is important to offer private health insurance policies that allow dependents to stay on their parents’ private health insurance longer, if need, so they can access timely and quality health care.
TONY MOCLAIR: Now, is, is that more of a cost to the mum and dad?
BEN HARRIS: It will depend on the policy. Generally, no. But we think it’s more important than ever before because public hospitals are really going to be struggling this year. We saw 50,000 elective surgeries in public hospitals cancelled before September last year and the public system is just groaning under the weight while the private system is ticking along nicely.

And we know that some young people, mental health care in particular is one of those issues where you need- relying on the public system isn’t going to work, and we’ve seen a huge increase in young people needing mental health care. So it’s really, really important to make sure that young people don’t get left out in the cold.

TONY MOCLAIR: And that’s at a cost, obviously, to the private health funds.
BEN HARRIS: Yes, it is at a cost. But we think that it will- if people don’t drop their cover between 25 and 30, generally what happens is people- we’ve had a decrease in people in those age groups being covered because of their economic circumstances, and then from 30 onwards they start taking it up again. We can reduce that gap and we think we will have more people taking it up into their 30s as well.
TONY MOCLAIR: I mean look, you know really, you need to excuse me for being cynical when it comes to health insurance funds. But I mean, are we going to pay for this in the long run anyway?
BEN HARRIS: Look, private health insurance is about paying for health care, so the more healthcare we pay for, the more than cost there is – absolutely. But the more younger people who stay into this- in the system mean that we’ve got a larger pool and we can spread the [indistinct].
TONY MOCLAIR: Yes. So sorry, just getting back to that original question. So mums and dads can expect to pay more to have their children as part of their health fund up until the age of 31.
BEN HARRIS: Some yes, some no.
TONY MOCLAIR: On what circumstances would it be no?
BEN HARRIS: So in- some people will be- some funds will be able to roll across there(*) in some way. But you’re right, if we’re paying for more healthcare then the cost will increase. But we think this is really important to make sure that young people don’t just fall through the cracks, particularly when the public system is going to be struggling so much over the next few years.
TONY MOCLAIR: But what about the mums and dads who have actually had a tough year themselves? And you know, are looking at saving the pennies and suddenly they’re hit with this as well?
BEN HARRIS: This will be an option. It won’t- people can stay on their existing policies, but if they want to have their dependent children on their policy going forward then they’ll have an option to do so.
TONY MOCLAIR: I mean; would it not have been more attractive to actually make it more attractive for younger people to jump into the private health care fund themselves?
BEN HARRIS: We think- And yes, absolutely, and we’re doing that. But remember, there are a lot of young people, Tony, who are really struggling at the moment – out of work, not being able to get into the housing market, and we need to make sure that they can capture- can make sure those people can get healthcare.
TONY MOCLAIR: Yeah. So on average, what would the healthcare funds increase by? Just say you’re a mum, just say you’re a mum and dad and you’ve got two children, one of which is over the age of 25 and you’ve got, you know, sort of most of the general cover.
BEN HARRIS: We- we’re not expecting significant increases at all for the- for that type of, type of scenario you’re talking about. But we do think it’s, it’s an option that we need to offer.
TONY MOCLAIR: Yeah. So you must have some sort of an idea as to a dollar amount?
BEN HARRIS: It will be really different depending on the circumstances. So the range from zero to a couple of hundred bucks.
TONY MOCLAIR: All right then. Okay, Ben. Well, you’ve obviously done your research and I get the fact that young people probably don’t take it up, but I just query why mum and dad should cop it in the neck as a result. But, as you say, it’s optional. So, nice to-
BEN HARRIS: [Interrupts] Yes. It’s an option, Tony, and many, many people looking after their dependent children into- well into their 20s these days. And you know, whether that’s good, bad or indifferent, that’s the reality we’re facing at the moment.
TONY MOCLAIR: Yeah. All right, Ben. Good on you, mate. Thanks very much for talking to us.
BEN HARRIS: Thanks, Tony.
TONY MOCLAIR: Ben Harris joining us there – the Director of Policy and Research at Private Health Care Australia, the industry’s peak body.
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