People in country areas will be able to get help with travel and accommodation from private health insurers thanks to the Nationals in Government.

The reforms will allow private health insurers to support customers living in country areas who need to travel to larger urban centres to receive specialist hospital treatment not available in their local towns.

Federal Minister for Rural Health and Deputy Nationals Leader Senator Bridget McKenzie said that as it stood, travel and accommodation could generally only be claimed by members with top level general treatment (extras) cover and the benefits offered had not kept pace with costs.

“Australians living in rural and regional communities often need to travel to receive hospital treatment in larger urban centres or capital cities,” Senator McKenzie said. “The Nationals in Government’s reforms will come into effect from April 1 next year, allowing insurers to offer travel and accommodation benefits under hospital cover and not just general treatment policies. The improved travel and accommodation benefits are part of a broader package of private health insurance reforms to improve affordability and make private health insurance easier to understand for consumers.”

The Nationals in Government have already reduced the cost of medical devices leading to savings of $1.1 billion over four years for consumers and has enabled consumers with mental health concerns to immediately upgrade their private health insurance. In addition, from April 1 Australians under 30 years of age will be able to receive discounts of up to 10 per cent off their private health insurance and new categories of gold, silver, bronze and basic will make private health insurance easier to understand for consumers.

“The reforms are another example of the Nationals in Government’s absolute commitment to assisting rural and regional Australians,” Senator McKenzie said. “Research shows that Labor’s plan to scrap lower-cost policies could result in a 16 per cent increase premiums for millions of Australians. Increases like this are just not sustainable for so many regional Australian families. We are making private health insurance easier to understand and more affordable for rural Australians.”