Private hospital coverage has fallen to its lowest level since 2009 and those who remain insured are more likely to have exclusions on their policies, a shift expected to add pressure on public hospitals.
Australian Prudential Regulation Authority data shows the proportion of the population with hospital cover fell from 45.1 per cent to 44.9 per cent in the September quarter. Coverage has not been that low since mid-2009.
The unprecedented surge in members taking out exclusions to save on premiums has raised the possibility that they, too, may be forced to go public for treatment.
Coverage has fallen every quarter since mid-2015. Meanwhile, there have been more admissions to public hospitals than private ones.
There is no evidence of an attributable blowout in public hospital waiting lists but governments are alert to the consequences of the system becoming more reliant on taxpayer funding.