Australia’s two largest health insurers are throwing fresh financial lifelines to those hardest hit by coronavirus, after facing calls to stall upcoming premium hikes.

Bupa will enforce another six-month deferral on premium increases for anyone on JobSeeker or JobKeeper payments.

Medibank is offering discounts to all Victorians affected by lockdowns but not receiving government payments.

Both insurers claim to have offered customers more than $185 million in financial support since the pandemic kicked off.

Earlier this week, the Morrison government was urged to reject looming premium hikes.

“The Private Health Insurance Act gives the Minister for Health the power to reject premium increases that would be contrary to the public interest,” Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen said.

“Greg Hunt must now explain why another 2.92 per cent average increase in October would be in the public interest – or cancel that increase altogether.”

HBF has already canned all of its 2020 increases.

Hospital treatment membership fell by 30,174 people in the year to June 2020, taking hospital coverage as a share of population from 44.3 per cent to 43.6 per cent.

Hospital membership for the 20-49 age group fell by 55,646 people due to worsening affordability and fewer young people seeing value for money.

The Australian Medical Association has called for the October federal budget to include reforms to improve the affordability and value of private health insurance.

Catholic Health Australia says lifetime health cover – penalties to the cost of private health coverage added each year after turning 30 – should instead be incurred after the age of 35.

The policy is designed to attract younger people to insurance early, so they don’t pay more later.

The Australian Private Hospitals Association said the government should restore the health insurance rebate to 30 per cent for low-income households, as well as adjust the lifetime health cover settings.