Fund ‘lifestyle’ payouts to be scrapped

Health insurance funds will scrap so-called “lifestyle” benefits; payouts on items such as gym memberships, golf clubs, running shoes and other sports and entertainment products. The benefits have been used to attract younger, healthy people to become health fund members and have cost the funds close to $15 million in the June quarter.

The Federal Government will ban such benefits in a crackdown which will come into force at the end of 2003 due to concern that fund members were exploiting the benefits. The Australian Health Insurance Association said its members want to focus on providing benefits for genuine health issues. The lifestyle benefits have accounted for about 1 per cent of total benefits paid, funded indirectly by taxpayers through the Government's 30 per cent private health insurance rebate. Programs for smoking cessation and weight loss will retain their benefit status.

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