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Health insurance up in AustraliaFederal policy working, says Abbott
MORE Australians than ever are paying a penalty for failing to take out private health insurance before they turn 30.
Figures from the Private Health Insurance Administration Council show more than 44 per cent of Australians have private hospital cover, after rates increased for the ninth consecutive quarter.
But the figures also showed the number of people paying an extra premium for their cover had increased.
About 91.5 per cent of those covered have escaped the penalty, while the rest, almost 567,000, are paying a loading.
The proportion of adults with hospital cover paying a loading has increased every quarter since the introduction of lifetime health cover, the council said in its latest report.
In the 12 months ending September 30, more than half the people who took out insurance were being penalised.
Of people taking out insurance over that year, about 159,000 had to pay a premium, while about 105,000 did not.
Lifetime health cover was introduced in July, 2000, in a bid to encourage younger and healthier people to insure.
Under the scheme, premiums are increased by an extra 2 per cent for each year above the age of 30 that people first take out insurance, up to a maximum loading of 70 per cent for those 65 or older.
A recent change removes the penalty once they have been insured for 10 continuous years.
Almost 15,000 people are now paying the top 70 per cent loading, a 5000 increase since last year.
The new figures show an increase in private cover across all age groups, but the largest percentage increase, at 4.6 per cent, was recorded for 25 to 29s.
Overall, 9.29 million Australians now have hospital cover and 9.89 million are covered for general treatment, also known as ancillary cover.
But hospital cover varies across the states and territories, from 48.7 per cent in Western Australia to just 33 per cent in Tasmania.
Health Minister Tony Abbott said the figures showed the Governments support for private cover was working to encourage more Australians to take it out.