Private health insurance is a joke

I've just signed up for private health insurance. The system has changed so remarkably in Australia that you're effectively forced to sign up to one. If I didn't I'd end up paying an extra 1% income tax, which between the two of us would be more than the cost of the insurance.

The problem is, this is possibly the worst Confusopoly around. Everything about the way the insurance companies provide information is geared towards forcing you to select the wrong options and stopping you from making direct comparisons. There are sneaky weasel words, exclusions and options all over the place. There's just no way for the average consumer to make an informed choice!

What's worse is there aren't any decent consumer tools out there to help you make the right choice. In the UK most confusopoly industries have excellent services like uSwitch and MoneySavingExpert that actually allow ordinary consumers to make an informed decision, cutting through the weasel words and fine print to allow direct comparisons.

Choice did a reasonable job but their information is now out-of-date and won't be fixed until July. Having read some of this fine print, I imagine it's a big job.

If our ruling junta are going to force us into health insurance, there needs to be a way for consumers to make an informed choice. I would suggest a government- or industry-funded independent comparison service, perhaps operated by a trusted third-party like Choice, with all insurers required to submit timely information in a pre-defined format so that cross-industry comparisons can be made. It's the only reasonable way forward.

Of course it was all a lot easier when we had a high quality public healthcare system, but Howard and his cronies seem intent on bleeding that once-great institution until we end up with an American-style healthcare system where the poor just die from treatable health problems.

It should be pointed out that Americans pay twice as much for their healthcare, both through the government and with private insurance. The Economist ran a great graph about a year ago showing comparitive costs separated out by private and government expenditure. America's "government" segment of the graph was as big, per-capita, as the UK's. They then paid as much again in private expenditure, while the UK has a very small private healthcare expenditure. Hardly the cost-effective way to do healthcare!