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Uninsured Australians forced to wait years for surgery

The cost of health insurance has risen more than 200 per cent since the year 2000.

Australians who don’t have health insurance are being forced to wait years until they can undergo surgery.

The cost of health insurance has increased at a rate more than double that of inflation, according to Finder. Since 2000, the cost of private cover has gone up 204 per cent (compared to inflation’s 84 per cent), meaning a policy valued at $1,000 at the turn of the millennium would set you back $3,038 in 2024.

However, the cost-of-living crisis has left many Aussies unable to afford health insurance and rely on the public system instead.

Insert of doctors performing surgery next to $50 Australian note and Medicare health insurance card
The cost of health insurance has risen more than 200 per cent since the year 2000. (Source: Getty)

Do you have a story? Email stew.perrie@yahooinc.com

New data has laid bare the reality of being uninsured in Australia right now. After speaking to more than 1,000 people, Finder discovered one in six had to delay getting surgery because they didn’t have cover.

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Of those people, one in three waited a year or more for their operation, while one in eight waited more than three years for the surgery.

Finder’s health insurance expert, Tim Bennett, said waiting this long can have huge impacts.

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"Those who are overdue for surgery can experience worsening pain or financial problems,” he said. "Their health could be deteriorating as a consequence of waiting months or years for surgery.

"Some people can't work due to their health conditions so it's a very financially stressful situation. Serving the waiting period on a new private health insurance policy can end up being shorter than the public wait list."

The majority (41 per cent) of uninsured respondents only waited up to six months to get their surgery, while one in four went under the knife after waiting six to 12 months.

Health insurance premiums are about to rise

The data comes as Australia edges closer to the date from when Aussies will have to pay more for their health insurance. On April 1, premiums will rise an average of 3.03 per cent, but some major insurers have confirmed their prices will increase by up to 5.82 per cent.

Compare Club research found that would equate to an average of $121 extra per year for health insurance. Single people will have to fork out an extra $81 per year, while families can expect to pay an extra $153 per year for cover.

But finance expert David Koch said Aussies could take advantage of a little-known trick to “turn back time” on the rate hikes and lock in lower rates for up to 12 months.

“Some health insurers allow you to pay for your policy at least a year in advance, a move that can secure the price you currently pay before any rise in prices,” the Compare the Market economic director explained.

However, some insurers might be closed over the Easter long weekend and April 1 falls on Easter Monday.

“If in doubt, contact the health fund directly to understand any cut-off dates they have,” Koch said.

“While it’s a high upfront cost, it could save you in the long run – especially as you won’t be paying the higher premiums until 12 months down the track when the next round of health premium increases roll around.”

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