Private health insurers have made many promises about the affordability of healthcare, but with our health premiums in 2018 set to increase by 3.95%, many Australians are beginning to wonder just how much private health insurance is actually saving them.
“As dentists, we are increasingly disappointed by the fact that health insurance rebates have declined over the years, whilst (at the same time) insurance premiums have increased. We believe the Health Funds should have no influence over the dentist you see and the rebate should be the same for all providers,” says Dr Ian Davies.
Last year, the Australian Dental Association contributed to the senate inquiry into the affordability of private health insurance, and the following key issues were raised –
- Increases to out of pocket costs for dental patients
- Ability to access quality healthcare
- Lack of patient choice when choosing a dentist via private health fund
How much are we paying for Private Health Insurance?
In 2017, reported data shows that we paid over $6.47 billion dollars in health premiums, while $4.87 billion was returned in terms of extras treatment. That’s $1.6 billion dollars of profit that is removed from our health system and pocketed as profits, and from these numbers, it’s no wonder dentistry appears to be more expensive to the average person.
“The health funds are blaming successive premium increases at two to three times the rate of inflation on the rising costs of healthcare. But dental fees aren’t to blame for spiralling extras premiums – ABS figures show they’ve only increased in line with the overall CPI over the past five years or so,” says Dr Hugo Sachs, President of the Australian Dental Association.
“When you look at the average fund rebate for dentistry it’s around $66 and the average annual spend is between $270-$280 but the cheapest policy you can buy [with coverage for dental] is $500,” Dr Sachs continues.
There is nothing fair about the way private health insurers treat consumers!
If you pay the same premium, you should get exactly the same rebate.
Posted by Australian Dental Association (2018)
Losing Choice & The Cost of Preferred Providers
So how does a dentist qualify as a ‘preferred provider’? To qualify, a dentist must sign a contract with a private health insurer to provide dental treatment to their policy holders for a list of prices set by the health fund.
The Australian Dental Association, BOH Dental, and many other dentists, do not agree with this one-size-fits-all approach to treatment costs, or the power this gives the private health insurance companies in setting the price of your healthcare. In some cases, such as in rural locations or patients needing specialist care, there may not even be a preferred provider available locally.
“At BOH Dental, our focus is providing dental treatment and care of the highest possible standard. Unfortunately, we have seen too many examples where the individual quality of care is not delivered under a preferred provider scheme. In order to be able to deliver to the individual needs of our patients we need to be able to provide our high-quality care autonomously,” says Dr Ian Davies.