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Tower hikes health premiums

Tower Health is following Southern Cross and Aetna's move and hiking its health insurance premiums.

Wednesday, August 15th 2001, 7:12AM

Tower Health and Life is offering clients and advisers sweeteners to soften the blow of an expected 20% jump in health insurance premiums in October.

Premiums are going up because of the increasing number and size of claims. The increases will affect 60,000 people or about half the insurer’s clients.

Tower Health managing director Jim Minto says claims have leapt about 25% in the past 12 months.

"It’s wonderful that people are using their health insurance more but it’s led to a significant increase in costs."

Tower's move follows price rises by its larger rivals Southern Cross and Aetna.

It is trying to soften the blow for those already paying some of the highest premiums.

Those with Premium Payback benefits in their policies are being offered the chance to drop the benefit in return for a 5% cut in their premium. (Premium Payback offers eventual refunds of premiums based on how heavily clients have claimed on their policies).

Clients who dropped the benefit would also be exempt from the October price rise and any further rises in the next year.

Alternatively, they can take a higher level of cover at no extra cost in return for dropping Premium Payback.

Minto said premiums had been loaded to cover the higher cost of Premium Payback and removing it was one way for customers to keep health insurance affordable.

He says clients would not be forced to switch from Premium Payback.

Tower is also offering advisers a $200 service payment for each client who takes up either of the switching offers.

In a letter to advisers, Minto said commissions would fall slightly if clients chose the lower premium option, rather than increasing their cover.

However, there would be no claw back of commissions that had already been paid.

Minto said there had been no increase in policy cancellations since Tower began telling clients about the likely price rise two weeks ago.

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