Private health premiums are set to rise on April 1 so now is the time to make sure you're getting the best deal. Insurance expert at finder.com.au, Bessie Hassan shares her tips to help you decide if it's best to stay or switch.
Decide on what you need from your fund
Discard those items you no longer or rarely use such as major dental if no one on the policy is at risk of needing braces or having wisdom teeth pulled. If you’re in your 20s or 30s, check if you’re paying for things like hip replacement surgery or knee reconstructions. It’s likely you won’t need these services until you’re older.
Pregnancy cover adds hugely to the cost of a health insurance policy. If you don’t need it, it’s fairly simple to drop, but because of the way some policies are designed, you may be dropping other coverage such as cardiac and hip or knee replacement as a result. Talk to your health fund – some offer a version of top health cover with non-obstetrics.
Review your extras
If you have a combined policy, review both your extras and hospital separately. For example if you’re paying for top hospital, you’ll be paying for top extras too. If you’re paying for top dental, you could be paying for top hospital too. You could also consider dropping from top or mid-level extras down to basic extras cover.
Mix and match
Many Australians don’t realise you can actually take out extras and hospital cover with two different health funds. This can sometimes work out cheaper than buying a combined policy.
Other ways to save
Each year before the price rise on April 1, those who can afford to can prepay their premiums for the next year at the previous year’s rate. This could save the average single $200. Other actions include switching to a couple’s policy and increasing the excess. Agreeing to pay an excess lowers the cost of your premiums. Consider joining a restricted membership fund run through an employer or industry group (most people are eligible for at least one), as premiums are usually lower and benefits are higher.
When to swap
Almost one in 10 people regularly switch their insurer in order to get the best value policy. Ask your insurer for a claims statement. If you have paid out more in premiums than has been paid for treatments, you’re not getting a great deal and it’s time to reassess.
Health funds know March is a popular time for consumers looking to make the switch, so they offer all kinds of deals and discounts from gift cards to fitness trackers. Outside of March, you can normally get offers when signing up for a combined policy such as a free month or skipped waits.
Don’t forget, you don’t have to reserve waiting periods on hospital cover if you’ve already served them with one fund. You can ask your new insurer to waive your new extras waits too. However, you will have to serve a waiting period for any new treatments if you sign up to a policy with a higher level of cover. Be sure you maintain sufficient cover to preserve your Lifetime Health Cover status and avoid the Medicare Levy Surcharge.
- Look for an insurer that offers member discounts, such as gap-free dental, multiple policy and loyalty discounts, etc.
- Couples who want pregnancy cover are potentially better off with two single policies – one with pregnancy cover and one without – rather than a couple’s policy.
- Review your policy regularly (at least every six months) to ensure it is still the best value for money.
Use it or lose it. Don’t forget to use up those extras limits as they reset ever y year. Easy ways to get value include getting prescription sunnies, having a scale and clean at the dentist, claiming a gym membership rebate or quit smoking course, or even just having a massage.