New data has revealed that any plans by Bill Shorten to slash the patient rebate for private health insurance would hit pensioners and low income earners on under $50,000 a year the hardest, forcing up the cost of their health insurance by up to $2,000. Only today Bill Shorten and Opposition Health spokesperson, Catherine King, have again refused to rule out slashing patient rebate for private health insurance. Australians have seen this before. When last in Government Labor promised not to touch private health insurance and then cut the rebate by $4 billion. Labor hates private health insurance and have taken an axe to it under Hawke, Keating, Rudd, Gillard, Rudd. Labor has already said they will slash $80 million from the patient rebate for 65,000 Australians on low cost policies forcing up the cost of their policies by 16%. This is a double blow for millions of pensioners, retirees and families who will also be slugged by Labor’s plans for billions of dollars in higher taxes – on their housing, incomes, investments, family businesses, electricity and cars. After intense media scrutiny they have now said they will not abolish the full patient rebate but have left the door open to slashing it further to pay for their spending frenzy. Any plans to slash the rebate further would lead to massive increases to the cost of private health insurance: A 30 year old female planning to have a baby soon, in the base incomes tier, will pay up to $687 per year more for top level cover A 72 year old female pensioner will pay up to $1,022 per year more for a mid-level cover A married couple in their 30s planning to start a family, in the base income tier, will pay up to $1,540 per year more for top level cover Married pensioners in their 70s, will pay up to $2,044 per year more for their joint mid-level cover These Australians rely on their cover to protect them when they are sick. New data published by the Australian Taxation Office[i] this week has also revealed that: Almost half of all people with private health insurance have an annual income under $50,000 More than one quarter of all people with private health insurance have an annual income under $30,000 Over 267,000 pensioners with an annual income under $30,000 have private health insurance. There are more than 124,000 retirees living off their superannuation with an annual income less than $50,000 who have retained their PHI Bill Shorten should come clean and acknowledge the people who will be hardest hit by a further cut to the patient rebate for private health insurance. In his own electorate nearly 70% of voters have private health insurance and would be worse off under a Labor Government, even before he raises their taxes. Over 50% of voters in Catherine King’s electorate rely on private health insurance. And would also be worse off under her plans. An increase in the price of private health insurance will lead to people dropping their cover. If private hospital cover drops to 30% of the population waiting lists for common essential procedures like knee and hip surgery in public hospitals will blow out by 91%, even taking into account significant increased funding for public hospitals.[ii] Patients would be forced to wait nine months for knee surgery and seven months for hip replacements under Labor’s plan. The Morrison Government recognises the important role private health insurance plays in the health system. We have introduced reforms to make it simpler and more affordable, and increased access to mental health services and discounts for young people. A Morrison Government can guarantee the private health insurance rebate. Now is not the time to turn back to a Labor Government which previously cut $4 billion for private health insurance. Labor must urgently rule out any plans to slash the patient rebate for private health insurance.