Three-year low for private health cover

Around 60,000 Australians have dropped their private health insurance in 2003 and the percentage of the population with cover has fallen below 44 per cent for the first time in three years, according to new figures from the Private Health Insurance Administration Council. At the end of June 203, 8.6 million Australians had private health cover, down from a high in late 2000 of 8.8 million.

People aged between 20 and 24 have been those most likely to pull out of private health insurance this year with over 20,000 in this age group abandoning cover after premiums increased in March. Federal Health Minister Senator Kay Patterson said private health insurance membership is still strong compared with 33 per cent coverage seven years ago. Senator Patterson said 165,000 people aged between 31 and 64 have taken out cover since the introduction of the Government's lifetime health cover scheme in June 2000.