News National Insurers encouraged to punish the overweight

Insurers encouraged to punish the overweight

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Overweight? You could pay more for health insurance if recommendations from a Commission of Audit proposal are adopted.

According to reports in Fairfax Media, if the Abbott government adopts the changes, customers could be charged higher premiums because of their “lifestyle choices.”

Currently, private health insurers are forbidden from charging older or unhealthier people more for cover.

But in the Commission of Audit report released last week recommendations included varying health fund premiums “for a limited number of lifestyle factors, including smoking, which materially increase a person’s health risk”.

“The community rating of health insurance products means unhealthy lifestyle choices made by some force up premiums for all,” the commission’s report said.

”Consideration should be given to relaxing rules relating to ‘improper discrimination’ that prevent health funds from charging different prices based on a person’s individual characteristics.”

Currently insurers can charge higher premiums if customers smoke.

Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton told Fairfax that the recommendations target people for factors that may be beyond their control.

He said excess weight and obesity were influenced by many factors outside a person’s control, such as their genes and their access to fresh food.

Some private insurers such as NIB welcomed the recommendations.