Health advocates are concerned about the rising number of Australians dipping into their superannuation to pay medical bills, ABC News reports.
In 2000-2001 about $42 million was released early from the superannuation system under compassionate grounds.
By 2016-2017 that had increased to $290 million, according to data from the Federal Treasury.
Nearly three-quarters of that was spent on medical treatment and transport, with about 15,000 Australians accessing their superannuation early for such purposes.
Michael Gannon, from the Australian Medical Association (AMA), said most of those superannuation funds were being spent on bariatric surgery to help people lose weight, and in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
“The problem with bariatric surgery is that this reflects the failure of the system,” he said.
“There are very limited public hospital services in this important area, a lot of the treatment is evidence based, we want to see an expansion of the bariatric surgery options in the public system.”
He said the superannuation system should not be used to as a safety net for health costs.
Dr Gannon said the AMA also had some concerns about the finance companies set up to help people access their superannuation, particularly when it comes to IVF.
He also expressed concern about people drawing on their super because they were knocked back from public hospital waiting lists.
The Consumers Health Forum said the trend highlighted an increase in out-of-pocket costs for healthcare.
“Savings for retirement” is often considered synonymous with superannuation. This is wrong, argues The Grattan Institute.
Chief executive Leanne Wells said while she did not oppose people being able to access their superannuation in “exceptional circumstances”, the current level of use was concerning.
“It’s really not the purpose of super, it creates problems with age care down the track,” she said.
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