Government Promises No Price Increases In Healthcare Changes

Health Minister Greg Hunt says there will be 'expanded coverage' for women's health conditions.

The federal government is insisting there won't be an increase in prices with new health insurance rules announced on Sunday.

The changes, which come into effect in April, will provide a simplified system, according to Health Minister Greg Hunt.

Hunt unveiled the minimum hospital treatments covered by the new policy bands -- Gold, Silver, Bronze and Basic.

The Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt with PHD student Matteo Costacurta in a research laboratory at the Peter Mac Cancer Centre in Melbourne. Image: AAP

He said the new tiered system would allow private health insurance consumers to see exactly what their policies cover "on a single page."

"What we have here is a simplified system so everybody knows what is in -- and what is not -- in their privatised health care coverage," Hunt said.

"We're not changing policies, we're categorising them."

Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt speaks to the media during a press conference at the Peter Mac Centre in Melbourne. Image: AAP

The health minister said a gold policy includes everything, including treatments many people don't need. He denied reports that pregnant women would be paying more for health care coverage.

Despite earlier concerns from heath groups that women's procedures -- including breast cancer reconstructive surgeries -- would cost more, he said there would in fact be "an expanded coverage for women's health conditions."

"One of the great complaints that we have is that many males, many women beyond child bearing age will say, 'I've only just discovered I'm being covered for pregnancy,' when of course there's no need for that," he said.

"Every woman who currently has pregnancy coverage . . . will not pay a dollar more."

The government has recommended that 20 basic hospital treatments, including appendix surgeries, chemotherapy and tonsillectomies, would be covered by all bronze policies, but other procedures such as IVF and joint replacements would be in the top gold band.

"The great thing is no surprises," Hunt said.

"Until now, most people have struggled in a mix of 70,000 policies and often numerous pages in your own policy to understand what's in and what's out. It will [now] all be clear."

Four new cancer medicines on PBS

The health minister also announced on Sunday four new medicines for treating cancer that will be added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from August 1.

"Today is a breakthrough day for cancer treatment in Australia," Hunt said.

"It's a total cost of $250 million and it will help save and protect the lives of thousands of patients each year."

One drug which currently costs patients $134,000 a year will now "be within reach for each and every patient" for between $6.40 and $39.50 per script, he said.