Speeches Chris has made in the Australian Federal Parliament.

Bills - Private Health Insurance Legislation Amendment (Age of Dependants) Bill 2021 - Second Reading

March 18, 2021

Mr HAYES (Fowler—Chief Opposition Whip) (12:53): I'm sure we all gained a lot from the ideological approach from the Member for Goldstein—particularly the young people up there, who I welcome to Parliament House. It's great to see young people back in this place.

Unlike the people he's been talking about, he left himself out of that. While he might describe himself as a 41-year-old and happy to be a parliamentarian, he's lucky to be on a very favourable superannuation system himself, and I'm not sure that he's taken the same view when it comes to his super as he has when it comes to others'. But, before you interrupt me, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will contain myself to the bill.

I think this bill is something actually worth supporting and something I think Members of this House could be proud of in its passage. Therefore, to try to politicise it, with his long-held views—erroneous ones on aspects of superannuation in this country—I think really demeans him and, quite frankly, the people he purports to represent, the good burghers of Goldstein.

I make my contribution in terms of the Private Health Insurance Legislation Amendment (Age of Dependants) Bill 2021. We support this piece of legislation because this is good and it's decent. The bill makes sensible improvements to private health insurance, effectively making it simpler and more affordable for all Australians.

In essence, the bill makes two fundamental changes. First, it changes the maximum allowable age for people to be covered under a family private health insurance policy, taking the dependent age from 24 to 31. The increase to the maximum allowable age for those covered by the family health policy means that people have the option of family health coverage until they reach the age of 31, when the government's lifetime health cover policy applies. That is significant. That means we can have more people covered by private health insurance over that period.

For many younger adults, this will mean that they can stay on their parents' health insurance policy at a time when they would otherwise be opting out of private health insurance. When that occurs, it is a problem for our general health system. For younger people, it would mean that those struggling with expenses—because many are still at university or in the early years of employment, which, if you're a young apprentice, does have an impact on your wages, so you would be struggling financially with private health insurance—are able to be included on their parents' private health insurance policy.

On the face of it, the reform seems to be of benefit to younger people. The contributions of these young adults, once they turn 31, means they will have access to the government's lifetime health cover. Ultimately, the goal is to make private health insurance more sustainable for everybody, and being more sustainable for everybody means having greater efficiencies within our system.

The second aspect of the bill, which is one I'm particularly pleased to see, is that it also makes significant changes in terms of private health insurance coverage for people with a disability. The bill allows people with a disability, regardless of their age, to be covered under the family private health insurance policy as a dependant. Effectively, this mean that people with a disability will be covered by the family policy at no or low cost, rather than having to purchase a standalone policy. This is a really significant development for everybody here, because, I imagine, of the 151 electorates represented in this chamber, we all know families with members that live with a disability. In my case, being in Western Sydney, my community's actually overrepresented with families with members living with a disability, which is not a reflection on the water we drink or the air we breathe but rather, probably, on the lower cost of housing in Western Sydney, which families that have to make compromises when raising children with disabilities gravitate towards. This is something that will be of significant benefit to many residents in my community.

While I note that the amendments do not make it mandatory for private health insurance companies to offer increased coverage for family products, we welcome the readiness of many of the insurers to date that have shown their willingness to participate and offer these changes.

Accordingly, I support the passage of this bill. I think it's commendable. For those here who take seriously their responsibility to represent everybody in their electorate, particularly those most vulnerable families living with disabilities, this is certainly a major development.