Addressing affordability: tipping the scales in favour of our members

Sheena Jack, HCF CEO

Today at HCF – Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund – we’ve announced a record low average premium rate increase of 3.39%. To put this into perspective, this is lower than last year’s increase, our lowest for more than a decade, the lowest of the major funds, and below the industry average (3.95%).

But we get it, it’s still not what you want to hear. As a not-for-profit health fund we are proud to put the interests of our members first because we don’t have shareholders wanting their share.  

We’ve worked hard to deliver on the promise to champion our members’ health and we know that passing on savings wherever possible is a critical part of this.  

So why do premiums continue to rise?

There’s a number of reasons, each of which can affect our members on a personal level. There has been a rapid increase in technology based innovation, which is reflected in improved treatment methods and a significant increase in the number of people treated. Thanks to emerging technologies we’re seeing better outcomes and quality of life for patients. HCF’s premiums mean a father can still enjoy playing in the park with his kids following successful heart surgery.

An ageing population means we are celebrating more birthdays with our loved ones. But it also means that more is required of the health system to ensure that the health of our older generations is managed appropriately. HCF’s premiums ensure that a grandfather can have his complex health needs managed quickly and efficiently.

The rise of the empowered consumer means our members are seeking out more choice, and have higher expectations than ever before. HCF’s premiums mean a mother can choose her hospital, her obstetrician and her own room to have the right birth for her and her baby.

How are my increased premiums being spent?

The overarching force for increased premiums is the rising cost of health services and rising volume of services provided – but we can guarantee you that as a not-for-profit health fund, our profit goes back to benefit our members. Last financial year alone we paid $970 million to private hospitals, $161 million to public hospitals, $251 million to specialist doctors, $232 million on prostheses and $13 million on chronic disease management programs. Compared to ten years ago we are now paying out over 60% more per policy – these numbers show us the real picture of rising health care costs.

And what about the dollars that don’t go to paying out benefits? We can’t expect the health system to improve if we’re not proactive. With an ethos to make positive and meaningful change, we leverage our resources, our networks and our influence to benefit all – from investing in the improvement of health services through the HCF Research Foundation to working directly with the government to influence reform. We support the health-tech start up community to drive innovation through the HCF Catalyst program, and work with likeminded organisations utilising innovation and technology to benefit our members, such as Healthshare. We also need to to invest in our systems and processes to continue to improve the service to our members.

Not-for-profit means we champion our members’ health

Our commitment to improving health services and patient outcomes means that a member with a long-term heart condition can lose 20% of his weight thanks to our Healthy Weight for Life program, with dramatic improvement in his quality of life. It means that a family can have peace of mind that their elderly relative can live independently, thanks to our investment in Curo technologies - an innovative, unobtrusive home monitoring system. And it means that we can help a pregnant HCF member prepare for one of the most important times of their life, with the aim to improve birth outcomes for mother and baby, thanks to a trial with She Births antenatal education program

In the last financial year, benefit payments to members across the private health insurance industry have increased by 5%. We’re committed to addressing affordability, and our rate increase of 3.39% shows that we are doing everything to not just balance, but to tip the scales in favour of our members.