Australians covered by private health at record high (nearly half of them)

Despite a "free" hospital system which they have to pay for as well (via taxes). At the moment there is a rebate recognizing that double payment but the Labor party wants to take that away -- no doubt hoping that it will force more people into the chaotic government system. That so many people avoid the government system is a good example of "voting with your feet"

MORE than 10 million Australians have private health insurance, the highest level in a decade. And Health Minister Nicola Roxon is using that growth to urge the Senate to approve her means test of the 30 per cent subsidy for insurance.

An extra 243,000 people took out private health cover over the past year, according to figures released by the Private Health Insurance Administration Council. And the largest growth in the past three months occurred among 20 to 24-year-olds: the least likely to use health insurance, The Australian reports.

A Gillard Government plan to save $1.9 billion by means-testing access to the 30 per cent tax break on health-fund premiums was meant to take effect in July, but has been blocked in the Senate, adding to the Government's budget woes.

The Opposition and Independent senators fear the means test applying to singles earning more than $75,000 and families earning more than $150,000 could force people to drop their cover as it becomes more expensive.

But Ms Roxon said the latest figures indicating a large growth in health fund membership over the past year showed this was a furphy.

The membership growth came despite another set of Government changes in 2008 that axed a tax penalty applying to middle-income earners who did not take out health insurance. Health funds fought this measure, arguing it would encourage one million Australians to drop their health cover; instead, Ms Roxon said, 670,000 people took out health insurance. "The proportion of Australians with private hospital insurance has also increased to 44.8 per cent, up from 44.6 per cent in the June quarter, the highest rate since March 2001."

She said the Government would push ahead with plans to take the Private Health Insurance Tax Rebate off the richest Australians. "If the changes do not go ahead, Treasury modelling indicates this will cost the budget $100bn over the next four decades," Ms Roxon said.


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