Large number of Australians thinks private health insurance is not ‘essential’

In Australia the number of people who believe private health insurance is essential has declined since five years ago, while more people agree that it is difficult to understand what is covered by their policies.

The findings are from research conducted covering 50,000 Australians in a year by Roy Morgan researchers. The latest results are based on the 12 months to October 2018.

When compared to the same period in 2014, those who agreed with the statement “it is essential to have private health insurance” declined by 10 percentage points to 56.2%. The next largest change was an increase of 7.7 percentage points in people who agreed with the statement “it is difficult to understand what you are actually covered for with private health insurance”, which rose to 43.7%. The proportion of people who agreed “extras and hospital cover are equally important” fell 7.1 percentage points to 54.1%.

However, 70% of the 8,000 survey participants who said they have private health insurance agreed “above all else, private health insurance is about knowing that you will be able to cover the cost of big medical expenses if they arise”. Support for this statement fell, with 77.5% agreeing in 2014. Those who agreed that “health insurance gives me peace of mind” also fell over the same period, from 74.5% to 68.1%.

There were generational differences in attitudes, with 83.8% of pre-boomers – those born before 1946 – agreeing that “private health insurance is about knowing that you’ll be able to cover the cost of big medical expenses”, compared to 56.5% of those in Gen Z, aged 14 to 27.

Meanwhile millennials, born between 1976 and 1990, and Gen X, born between 1961 and 1975, were more likely to agree with the statements “I want the cheapest and don’t care provider”; the “only reason to have it is to avoid paying tax”; and “I don’t see much value in having it”.

In a bid to improve attitudes towards and the uptake of private health insurance, the government will from April require insurers to categorise their insurance policies into easily understood tiers of cover: gold, silver, bronze and basic. There will be minimum requirements for each tier of cover.