Health insurance premiums are falling in Australia, as insurers have cut out hospital bed spending and doctors are turning to home visits instead.
In the past three months, premiums have fallen in the biggest single-month fall for the industry since the global financial crisis.
In its latest quarterly report, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) said the industry was experiencing a slowdown in patient numbers and spending.
But it said hospital bed numbers had increased for the first time in six years.
“While we believe the ACA has played a significant role in reducing demand for health services, we recognise there is room for improvement in the way the system operates,” AMA CEO Michael Smith said.
“We recognise that there is still a great deal of work to be done to improve the patient experience and reduce unnecessary hospitalisation and GP visits.”
In the latest quarter, the AMA reported the average annual cost of health insurance to be $23,764 for a single person.
But it added that hospital costs were also on the rise and that the average cost of a GP visit in the past 12 months had gone up from $749 to $1,898.
The AMA’s annual report also said that in the year to March 30, the average hospital stay in Australia was up 2.2 per cent, and the average GP visit was up 3.2.
In March, the Health Insurance Council of Australia (HCIA) said it was reviewing the national health insurance scheme, saying it was “not delivering the intended value”.
It said it would “continue to review the system to determine the optimal way forward”.
The ACA has been criticised by many who say it has failed to protect Australians from the coronavirus pandemic.
But the AMA said it had also seen an improvement in health outcomes from other major health insurance companies in Australia.
“In recent years, insurers have shown a willingness to work with the industry and support the expansion of the system in the face of a difficult economic environment,” AMA chief executive officer Dr Smith said in a statement.
There were also signs the AMA was taking a stronger stance on other aspects of the ACA, such as the number of patients allowed into hospitals and the number patients allowed to travel on a plane.
And the AMA has announced it will be introducing new rules to ensure patients can still travel on their own in hospitals if they are in serious pain.