UK retiree forced to pay almost $700 in private health a month — and no one’s listening

Ron Spencer of the UK resides in Australia on a retirement visa pays almost $700 per month for health insurance. PICTURE: CHRIS KIDD

OVERSEAS  retirees living in Tasmania are facing a costly and significantly limited choice of health insurance

People who have moved to Australia on a 410 Retirement Visa are not entitled to Centrelink or Medicare benefits and must have private health insurance.

However, according to 77-year-old UK immigrant Ron Spencer of Claremont, there is only one company, Bupa, that offers medical cover under his visa and the costs of that cover have increased by almost $500 a month in six years.

In 2011, while with MBF before it became Bupa that same year, Mr Spencer’s monthly premium was just $191. He is now charged $668 per month under Bupa’s advantage visitor cover.

And he’s not alone, with Bupa revealing to the Mercury that other immigrants across the state are forced to pay the same cover.

Mr Spencer, who moved to Tasmania 12 years ago, said paying more than $8000 a year for private health was impossible on his current income of about $46,000. Last year he also paid $4414 in tax.

“The reason for it is clear. There is only one insurance company now that can offer [the visa cover],” Mr Spencer said. “There must be lots of other people in my position who have been heavily hit too.”

A Bupa spokesman said the company had increased its pricing on the cover to break even. He said many other funds had stopped offering similar cover, and Bupa no longer sold that package to new customers.

“The age of the people taking out this product and the fact it is risk-rated, means it is very expensive and has seen us lose more than $11 million over the past four years,” Bupa said.

“On average over the last four years the claims that we paid on this policy were 60 per cent higher than the premium received, which is why we’ve had to raise prices by such an unusually high amount.”

Mr Spencer has contacted Bupa, the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman as well as independent Denison MP Andrew Wilkie, to no avail.

Mr Wilkie said Bupa’s behaviour was “unconscionable” and the Federal Government’s efforts were disappointing.

“Not one person has seen fit to pull Bupa into line or to help Ron Spencer directly,” he said.

“One of the problems of course is that Bupa is the only provider of relevant insurance and can exploit its monopoly. The irony in all this is that Mr Spencer pays Australian taxes.”