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Health News

Health Insurance Premiums Skyrocket, Some by 15% or More: CHOICE

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Health Insurance Premiums Skyrocket, Some by 15% or More: CHOICE

 

Should You Consider Self-Insurance? Plus Other Tips to Save!

Consumer group CHOICE has found that many Australians faced significant increases in their health insurance premiums in April, with some premiums rising as much as 17%—far higher than the annual average industry-wide price increase of 3.03%.

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“CHOICE reviewed the prices of over 24,000 policies with hospital cover and found Gold policies had the highest premium increases, with average increases above 10% for HBF, HCF, HIF, and Australian Unity policies. One Gold policy in Western Australia even saw a 17% hike,” said CHOICE health insurance expert Jodi Bird.

“With these sky-high increases, it’s worth taking the time to review your health insurance to ensure you’re only paying for what you need, and that you’re getting it at the best possible price,” Bird added.

CHOICE’s Top Tips for Saving on Your Health Insurance

  1. Drop Gold Hospital Insurance

“Gold hospital cover has become too expensive. If you have a specific condition usually covered by Gold policies and want to use the private hospital system, look for a Silver Plus policy or consider self-insurance.”

Self-insurance is an alternative to private health insurance. Instead of paying an insurer, you save money yourself to cover private health costs as they arise. If you don’t need any health treatment, your savings will grow.

“We have found that in some cases, opting to self-fund your health care can be the better-value option,” Bird explained.

For example, cataract surgery, one of the most common surgical procedures in Australia, is often only covered by the most expensive Gold policies. CHOICE’s analysis showed that the annual cost of top-cover health insurance could exceed the out-of-pocket cost for a private cataract procedure.

“This option may only be suitable for people who have few health issues and do not anticipate any unexpected health events. And of course, you need to ensure you have the money set aside in case you require a surgical procedure or treatment in the private system,” Bird advised.

  1. Compare Policies to Find a Good Deal

“We always recommend comparing policies to find the best value policy to suit your needs. The same cover with a different insurer may save you hundreds of dollars a year. Look beyond the well-known big funds and consider smaller funds; switching to a smaller fund often provides a cheaper deal,” said Bird.

“If you’re unsure where to start, CHOICE has an independent health insurance comparison tool that allows you to compare thousands of policies from over 40 insurers,” Bird suggested.

  1. Do You Need Extras Insurance?

“The value of extras insurance really depends on the individual. It can be worth purchasing, but only if you use it enough that it pays out more than the premiums that are coming out of your pocket,” Bird noted.

“If you need extras insurance, shop around and buy your extras from a different provider than your standard hospital cover if you find a better deal,” Bird recommended.

Compare health insurance policies here: CHOICE Health Insurance Comparison Tool

 

For more health news, click here.

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Health News

Accessing medical care when it’s urgent

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Healthdirect

Accessing medical care when it’s urgent

 

People in northern NSW are being reminded of the care options that are available to them, as winter illnesses continue to impact the local community and the region’s busy emergency departments (EDs).

Northern NSW Local Health District Chief Executive, Tracey Maisey said those with nonlife-threatening conditions are encouraged to call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 for fast and free health advice from a registered nurse. You can also check your symptoms and find a service online at Healthdirect.gov.au or on the Healthdirect app.

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“When you call Healthdirect, a registered nurse will assess your condition and guide you to the care you need, which could be a local health service, such as urgent care service, or connect you with a virtual care service,” Ms Maisey said.

“Hospitals in northern NSW are extremely busy this winter, with high numbers of ED presentations month on month. Across the District, we are seeing an average of 622 people present to our EDs each day, which is higher than the same time last year.

“By utilising services like Healthdirect, we can ensure our busy EDs are reserved for the most urgent and high-level care that can’t be accessed anywhere else.”

Ms Maisey also reminded the community there are a few simple steps people can take to help protect themselves and their loved ones from respiratory illnesses.

“The most important thing to do is booking in for your flu vaccine if you haven’t already – it is not too late. Please stay home if you are sick. If you are unwell and need to leave home, please wear a mask and avoid high-risk settings including aged care and hospitals,” Ms Maisey said.

Chief Executive of Healthy North Coast Monika Wheeler said in recent years there has also been significant investment to enhance primary care access in northern NSW.

“If you can’t get a quick appointment with your regular general practice or care provider, there are several free, local options available for urgent care needs,” Ms Wheeler said.

“Healthy North Coast is also supporting the Australian Government’s establishment of a GP-led Medicare Urgent Care Clinic in Lismore. The clinic is open seven days a week from 7.30am to 7.30pm, and accepts walk-ins, with no appointment needed.

“If you have a life-threatening emergency, call Triple Zero (000) or go to an ED. Examples of life-threatening emergencies include chest pressure or pain lasting more than 10 minutes, difficulty breathing, uncontrollable bleeding, or sudden collapse.”

Lismore Medicare Urgent Care Clinic

No appointment needed, walk-ins welcome. Open 7 days a week. The clinic provides free, immediate treatment to Medicare Card holders for non-life-threatening injuries or illnesses. Services include treatment for respiratory illnesses, gastroenteritis, minor infections, burns or cuts, sprains and sports injuries, STIs, bites and rashes, eye and ear infections.

Members of the community may also be directed to Lismore Medicare Urgent Care Clinic by calling Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 or via the North Coast Health Connect website.

 

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Health News

Whooping Cough and Pneumonia Cases Surge in NSW, Posing Significant Risk to Children

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Whooping Cough and Pneumonia

Whooping Cough and Pneumonia Cases Surge in NSW, Posing Significant Risk to Children

 

Whooping cough rates have surged to their highest levels in nearly a decade in New South Wales (NSW), and the number of young children hospitalised with pneumonia has more than doubled compared to the same period last year, according to state health data.

Pertussis Cases Reach Alarming Levels

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The latest NSW Health respiratory surveillance report reveals that there have been 103.1 notifications of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, per 100,000 people in the state so far this year. The last time figures were this high was in 2016, with a rate of 139.6 per 100,000.

Professor Robert Booy, an infectious diseases paediatrician at the University of Sydney, attributes the rise to several viruses and bacteria, including pertussis and mycoplasma, actively spreading, particularly among primary school-aged children.

“Both [pertussis and mycoplasma] are causing pneumonia, leading to hospital admissions, emergency department presentations, and the need for antibiotic treatment,” said Professor Booy.

Public Health Advisory

NSW Health advises individuals to stay home if unwell and to wear a mask if going out is necessary, in an effort to reduce the spread of these respiratory illnesses.

Young People Particularly at Risk

Health data indicates that pneumonia rates among children aged zero to 16 are “unseasonably high” and exceed levels recorded in the past five years. In early June this year, nearly 140 children under the age of four presented to emergency departments with pneumonia, compared to fewer than 60 at the same time last year. For children aged five to 16, the number was 400, up from fewer than 50 last year.

The increase is attributed to a specific strain of pneumonia, commonly referred to as “walking pneumonia.” The report states that Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a frequent cause of pneumonia in school-aged children, with epidemics occurring every three to five years. The last epidemic in NSW occurred before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Expert Insights

Dr. Rebekah Hoffman, chair of the NSW and ACT branch of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, noted that while most individuals contracting Mycoplasma pneumoniae would remain “quite well,” they might suffer from a persistent cough for several weeks or months. “For some kids, especially if they are immunocompromised or have other respiratory problems, they might get really sick and need hospitalization,” Dr. Hoffman said.

Both Dr. Hoffman and Professor Booy highlighted that social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in 2020 and 2021, resulted in children not being exposed to other respiratory illnesses, such as whooping cough and pneumonia. Professor Booy explained that the absence of exposure created a group of susceptible young children who are now developing and spreading whooping cough in school and other settings.

Resurgence Patterns

Whooping cough typically surges every three to six years, but due to the pandemic, this interval has now stretched to six to eight years. Dr. Hoffman noted that the spike in respiratory illnesses reflects young people “catching up” on infections they missed in previous years. She expressed surprise at the significant increase in whooping cough rates.

Professor Booy emphasized the seriousness of whooping cough for certain groups, particularly newborn babies. “The children at most risk are the very young… they need protection from their mother being vaccinated during pregnancy to develop antibodies which pass to the baby before it’s even born,” he said.

The health department data also indicated that COVID-19 cases remain “high” in the state.

Conclusion

The surge in whooping cough and pneumonia cases in NSW is a significant public health concern, particularly for young children. Continued vigilance, vaccination, and adherence to public health guidelines are essential to manage and mitigate the spread of these illnesses.

 

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Health News

Mental Well-Being Crucial for Healthy Aging, New Study Reveals

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Mental Well-Being HEALTHY AGING

Mental Well-Being Crucial for Healthy Aging, New Study Reveals

 

A recent study published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour has established the significant impact of mental well-being on healthy aging. The research evaluated the causal effects of mental well-being on genetically independent aging phenotypes (aging GIP), providing new insights into the relationship between mental health and aging.

Key Findings:

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  • Human Longevity and Challenges: While human life expectancy has increased over time, the aging population poses challenges for both individuals and society. Mental well-being is known to correlate with lifestyle behaviours and morbidity and is linked to physical health and increased survival.
  • Socioeconomic Status (SES) Connection: Socioeconomic status (SES) is interlinked with both aging and mental well-being, but a direct causal relationship between mental well-being and healthy aging had yet to be established until now.

Study Overview:

Researchers utilised Mendelian randomisation (MR) to assess the effects of mental well-being on aging phenotypes. Summary-level genome-wide association study (GWAS) data from people of European descent were used. The exposures included various well-being traits such as life satisfaction, neuroticism, depressive symptoms, and positive affect. SES indicators—education, occupation, and income—were also considered.

A total of 106 candidate mediators were screened, including lifestyle factors, physical function traits, diseases, and behaviours. These mediators were selected based on their causal association with aging GIP and the well-being spectrum.

Methodology:

  • Linkage Disequilibrium Score Regression: This was used to examine genetic correlations between mental well-being traits, aging phenotypes, and SES indicators.
  • Univariable and Multivariable MR Analyses: These analyses were performed to assess the causal effects of mediators and mental well-being traits on aging phenotypes and to investigate the impact of SES indicators on mental well-being traits.
  • Two-Step MR Analysis: This tested the mediating effects between the well-being spectrum and aging GIP.

Results:

  • Genetic Correlations: Positive genetic correlations were observed between all mental well-being traits and aging GIP components (except for longevity). The well-being spectrum was linked to increased aging GIP, resilience, health span, parental lifespan, and self-rated health.
  • Positive and Negative Associations: Positive affect and life satisfaction were positively associated with aging phenotypes, while depressive symptoms and neuroticism were inversely associated.
  • SES and Well-Being: Higher income, education, and occupation were causally linked to improved mental well-being. The well-being spectrum independently correlated with higher aging GIP, even after adjusting for SES indicators.

Mediators:

Out of 106 candidate mediators, 33 met the criteria for inclusion. Key findings included:

  • Unhealthier Lifestyle Factors: These were associated with lower aging GIP.
  • Positive Influences: Factors such as later smoking initiation age, higher cheese consumption, appendicular lean mass (ALM), cognitive performance, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), and fresh fruit intake were associated with higher aging GIP.
  • Significant Diseases: Heart failure, hypertension, stroke, and coronary heart disease had the highest effect sizes on aging GIP.

Several factors, including antihypertensive medication, smoking initiation age, and television watching time, mediated at least 7% of the effect of the well-being spectrum on aging GIP. Other mediators, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, waist-to-hip ratio, and fresh fruit intake, also played significant roles.

Conclusion

The study illustrated the causal effects of mental well-being on aging phenotypes independent of SES. Better mental well-being was linked to improved aging GIP, with the causal effect partly explained by various mediators, including lifestyle factors, physical functions, diseases, and behaviours. These findings underscore the importance of prioritising mental well-being to promote healthy aging.

 

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