Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley seeks public opinion over private health insurance price hikes

Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley has not ruled out approving increases for private health insurance premiums.

Ms Ley wants to apply greater scrutiny to increasing costs of private cover, citing an "overwhelming level of concern" among voters.

She has the ability as Health Minister to refuse price hikes, but told the ABC that nothing had been decided.

"I'm not ruling in or out what I may do," she said.

"What I am expressing is real concern on behalf of consumers when they see private health insurance premiums going up."

Half a million Australians have dropped or downgraded their private health insurance in the last financial year.

Ms Ley said people "dumping and downgrading" their policies meant they were not necessarily covering necessary procedures.

She said it could also lead to unnecessary pressure on the public health system.

"We cannot load up the public system with patients who would effectively describe themselves as private," she said.

Ms Ley said she would investigate whether a stronger public-interest test in regards to approving premium increases, citing the need for a "circuit breaker".

She has also extended the deadline for an online survey, which has already received almost 40,000 responses.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) found Australia's private health industry was too complex and drove consumers to lower-priced policies which lacked adequate coverage.

In its annual report on the industry issued earlier this year, the ACCC said there were a number of market failures in private health insurance that impeded consumers' ability to make choices that are likely to be in their best interests

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