A growing number of Australians are expected to dump their private health insurance as the sector moves to hike premiums next week, the nation's peak medical body says.
The Australian Medical Association has released its private health insurance report card, which suggests next week's premium rises could see more people giving up their insurance.
AMA president Omar Khorshid says there has been five years of continuous decline in the number of Australians with hospital insurance.
"Australia's private health insurance system is under real stress," Dr Khorshid said in a statement on Saturday.
"This is only likely to get worse as a result of the global pandemic as people face unemployment or underemployment, and the economy is in recession."
He said young people were most likely to drop their insurance, while people over the age of 65 were taking it up in increased numbers.
But, Dr Khorshid warned that as more older Australians took up private health insurance and the claims became greater, the premium rises also became bigger.
As premiums increased, those who were least able to afford it, including younger Australians and families, were priced out of the market, he said.
"Unless the drift away from private health insurance is stopped, we will see even more pressure on an already stressed public hospital system," Dr Khorshid said.
"It is time for more reform, it is time for the government to stop underfunding the public and private health systems, time to stop making 'savings' at the expense of quality health care, and time to focus on fixing the system."
The AMA is calling for reforms to premium rebates, lifetime health cover loadings, the Medicare surcharge levy, youth discounts, long-term incentives for people to maintain their cover, and a minimum level of benefits for patients.