How to avoid private health hikes

 

Private health insurance members should be bracing themselves for premium hikes in the coming weeks as funds start to notify customers of their higher costs.

Millions of Australians will be hit with their second premium rise in just six months - the annual April 1 hikes were delayed last year and most funds didn't implement them until October.

Latest figures show 10s of thousands of Australians signed up to private health in the December quarter compared to the same quarter in 2019 - there were an additional 114,800 extras policies and 67,000 hospital policies taken out.

But like most consumer products, loyalty doesn't always pay and hunting for better deals can save you a small fortune. The average price hike this year will be 2.74 per cent which will cost the average family another $112 a year.

Here's four ways to try and reduce your premium costs before the April 1 increases kick in.

1. PREPAY YOUR INSURANCE

Private health is one of the biggest household expenses but avoiding this year's hike is possible.

To do this funds usually allow members to prepay at least another 12 months and sometimes up to 18 months ahead.

For instance, if you contact your fund and arrange to prepay 12 months ahead before the April 1 hike starts, you will still pay the 2020 premium figure and avoid the upcoming increase.

This is, of course, if you are able

to afford paying a large chunk in advance.

Private health insurance premiums are due to rise on April 1.
Private health insurance premiums are due to rise on April 1.

2. REVIEW YOUR COVER

Many members set and forget their cover and this can prove costly.

Medibank's chief customer officer David Koczkar says it's critical to know exactly what is included in your policy to make sure you aren't paying for things you don't need.

"Are you covered for pregnancy but don't plan on having any more children or do you plan on starting or adding to your family," he says.

"Are you getting to a stage in your life where your health needs are increasing."

The government's website privatehealth.gov.au is a good way to compare every policy and find what works best for you.

3. TALK TO YOUR INSURER

It often pays to just pick up the phone and speak to your provider to see if you can save, says Bupa's managing director of health insurance Emily Amos.

"Customers who think that they may struggle to afford their new premiums as a result of the impacts of COVID-19 should contact their provider to see how they can be supported," Amos says.

It's also a good opportunity to discuss ways to curb your premium costs or look at better ways to pay,

for instance many people pay fortnightly or monthly to align

when they get paid.

But she warns don't just focus on cost. While cost is important, so too is understanding what you are covered for, what the limits on your policy are and how you can make the most out of your cover.

 

■ Australian Unity 1. 99%

■ Bupa 3.21%

■ CUA Health 2.99%

■ GMHBA 3.24%

■ HBF 0.94%

■ HCF 2.95%

■ Health.com.au 0.83%

■ Medibank 3.25%

■ NIB 4.36%

■ Teachers Federation

Health 2.88%

INDUSTRY AVERAGE 2.74%

Source: Health.gov.au

Originally published as How to avoid private health hikes

sophie.elsworth@news.com.au

@sophieelsworth



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