Young Australians who sign up to private health cover will benefit from discounts on their premium under sweeping Turnbull government reforms created to entice more young people into the system and slow the rising cost of health insurance.
On Friday the health minister, Greg Hunt, unveiled changes that will allow private health funds to offer discounted private hospital cover to people under the age of 29 but increase hospital insurance excesses from $500 to $750 for singles and from $1,000 to $1,500 for couples or families.
Under the new reforms, a 19-year-old who took out health insurance would be offered a 2 percent discount, rising to 10 percent by the time they are 24.
It's about getting young people in, which helps them... and secondly that actually reduces pressure on the whole of private health insurance because they lower the average costs.
Mr Hunt believes the move will encourage young people to take up private health insurance while helping other policyholders.
Private Healthcare Australia, the peak body representing health insurance companies, said the reforms would deliver "value to Australians young and old".
In a statement on Friday the chief executive of Defence Health, Gerard Fogarty, said he was glad the government had started to address affordability but the reforms "are far from complete or sufficient to immediately reduce the pressure consumers are experiencing".
Mr Hunt says an agreement with makers of hip and knee prostheses and cardiac devices will save insurers about $1 billion over the next four years.
The ABC reports that insurance premiums have increased by an average 5.6 percent a year since 2010.
King said trading off increases in excesses for "the prospect of slightly lower premiums" would leave vulnerable and low-income people facing "unexpected medical expenses" when they needed to claim.
"I'm working with the private health insurers ... and they have guaranteed in writing they will pass through all of the cost savings".
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The government also said the private health cover reforms would make mental health services easier to access.
"That means people will have clear choices and clear explanations in a way that has never been the case", Mr Hunt said.
That discounted rate would remain until they are 40, after which it would be phased out.
Benefits will not be available for a range of natural therapies, including aromatherapy, herbalism, homoeopathy, kinesiology, naturopathy, pilates, reflexology, shiatsu, tai chi, and yoga.
Customers will be able to upgrade to plans that cover mental health with "no waiting periods", and basic private policies will include mental health cover as standard. Cutting these costs is expected to lower premiums from April 2018.
Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon says the move won't solve the issue of affordability, but it is a step in the right direction.
Labor does, however, welcome cuts to the cost of devices on the prostheses list.
"The people who pay the most for private health, and use the most private health, will continue to see their premiums increase next year", she said.
The CEO of HCF, Sheena Jack, said the package was "good news for our members" and would help "make private health insurance fair and transparent for consumers".
'The biggest problem in the affordability of private health insurance is the amount that's going into the pockets of the for-profit insurers, ' he told ABC radio.