The Australian government is to reconsider the sale of the publicly-owned health insurance company, Medibank Private.

The government, which currently owns Medibank, first considered the sale in 2003 but decided to retain public ownership of the company, saying financial losses prevented the sale at the time.

The government has decided to reconsider the sale in light of Medibank’s improved performance and changes in the private health insurance market. The new review will look at how a sale of the company would affect customers, members and employees, and is expected to be completed by the end of the year, in time for cabinet submission in 2006.

Medibank said in a statement that it would not be distracted by the authorities’ review, and would continue with operations as normal.