'Medibank cancelled my policy and didn't tell me'

CAMERON Shekleton has been a Medibank member for most of his life.

He thought he was covered for any accident or emergency but was shocked to discover that his policy had been suddenly cancelled, leaving him without insurance for months.

"I'm absolutely gobsmacked," Mr Shekleton told news.com.au after learning of the mishap, and being told he would have to fork out thousands to rectify the mistake.

He said he only discovered his predicament when he went to do his tax, and was told he was liable to pay a $1500 Medicare levy surcharge.

"I called up Medibank to say 'I can't log on online, can you flick me an end of financial year statement?" he told news.com.au.

"They said 'hold on a sec, you don't have a policy with us'."

Mr Shekleton said he had a basic policy covering him for hospital admissions, but did not claim extras, so had no idea that his coverage had ceased.

He believes he was a victim of the IT glitch that sparked a deluge of complaints by Medibank customers to the Health Insurance Ombudsman, including those who experienced problems with their direct debits.

Many of the complaints related to the wrong amounts being direct debited from policy holders' accounts, but news.com.au has confirmed that the Ombudsman also received a number of complaints from customers who said their policies had been cancelled.

Mr Shekleton said Medibank initially offered to pay half of the $2200 cost of bringing his policy up to date, but withdrew the offer after negotiations broke down.

He argued that wiping out the arrears owed on his account would not cost the insurer anything, given that he had not claimed on the policy during the time when his membership was suspended - and doubted he would have been able to even if he had encountered misadventure.

"If something had happened to me last year it might have been even more catastrophic," he said.

"The case manager told me 'we did send a letter to you and we think we've done enough", but I didn't receive anything. I haven't moved house, my phone number hasn't changed."

Since the error was not his fault, Mr Shekleton did not see why he should have to pay up, labelling the insurer's insistence that he do so "small and petty".

"It doesn't cost them anything to bring me up to date, they are just being opportunistic," he said.

After being contacted by news.com.au, Medibank swiftly changed its tune, agreeing to reinstate Mr Shekleton's policy at no charge to him.


A Medibank spokeswoman said in a statement: "We apologise for any inconvenience to Cameron. Now we have been able to make contact with him, we have reinstated his policy and look forward to supporting him with his health and wellbeing in the future."

The insurer came under fire earlier this year for a range of complaints to the Ombudsman, including a delay in issuing tax statements.

Medibank's chief customer officer David Koczkar apologised to the customers affected, about 1000 of its 3.8 million members, and promised to reduce the number of complaints to match its market share "within a year" from February.

"We're pleased we've been able to improve our service for our customers, but we have more to do," Mr Koczkar said in a statement at the time.

"We recognise that we need to do better ... We are methodically rolling out a plan to provide quicker and better service to our customers and offer products that meet their needs."

Six months on, the clock is ticking as the Ombudsman's latest quarterly bulletin reveals that complaints against health insurers have continued to rise, with 163 relating to premium payments and direct debits - up from 127 in the previous quarter.