Health insurance provides the essential protection for you and your family, but do you know how to get the best value health cover?
Here are some keys to getting cheap health insurance that suits your needs.
1. Compare health insurance quotes to get the best price
The best way to ensure that you're getting the best price on health insurance is to compare your options. And the easy way to compare your options is to use a comparison site, where you can receive multiple quotes at once from a range of health funds. A good comparison site, like moneytime, will have gathered and sorted all the relevant information so you can see at a glance the different options available to you and make an educated decision.
On moneytime, you can compare health covers at a glance and see exactly what's covered by different plans, and then join online within minutes. Best of all, the service is free to use for consumers.
2. Choose your health insurance features
By choosing the features you want to be covered in your health insurance policy, you can save money by leaving out things you don't need; like pregnancy and birth-related services (if you don't expect to have any children in the next 12 months), joint replacements (if you're young and fit and can't foresee the need for them) or hearing aids and glucose monitors (ditto).
On moneytime you can choose the features you want to be covered by your health insurance policy. Hover your mouse over the blue information dots for more information on each element.
Whether you're looking for the most comprehensive level of health cover, or a reasonably cheap health cover to exempt you from the Medicare Levy Surcharge while still providing 'just in case' protection, you can choose and find what you want at moneytime.
3. Start early in life to lock in the cheapest health insurance rate
If you join Hospital Cover before 1 July following your 31st birthday, you will be eligible to lock in the lowest base rate health insurance premium. Entering after that age may incur a Lifetime Health Cover penalty of 2% age loading for every year after the age of 30 that you were without health insurance, for example, someone who joins at 35 years old will pay 10% more than someone who joins at 30.
Special conditions apply for new migrants, people who were overseas on their 30th birthday and other exceptions. You may read more about Lifetime Health Cover here. But if you join a health fund later in life and pay an age loading on your health insurance, after ten years of continual cover, you will be rewarded by the removal of the filling so you can lock in the lowest base rate premium for health insurance.
As you can see, it pays to take out health insurance earlier in life earlier – in the long run; you'll save money.
4. Use an Excess or Co-payment to lower your health insurance premium
Excess and Co-payment options reduce your health insurance premium because you receive a lower premium quote in exchange for agreeing to pay any out-of-pocket sum if you are admitted to hospital.
An Excess is a sum of money you agree to pay when you go to the hospital, regardless of the length of stay, while a Co-payment is a daily sum paid when you go to a hospital, up to an agreed amount. For example, if Tom has an Excess of $200 on his health insurance and is admitted to hospital for some reason, regardless of his length of stay, he will pay $200 of the final bill. If Tom has a $50x4 Co-payment arrangement, he will pay $50 each day for the first four days of his stay only.
If you're fit and healthy and don't expect to go to the hospital soon, then Excess and Co-payment options are ideal for reducing your up-front health insurance premium. moneytime helps you compare like with like, by allowing you to select similar Excess and Co-payment amounts for different health insurance policies to compare their value.
You can see your Excess and Co-payment options on moneytime. Clicking on a different option will automatically update the premium so you can calculate your savings.
Health insurance policies have different rules about Excess and Co-payments, and how many times per year you may be expected to pay it per policy. Be sure to read the policy documents to clearly understand what you're getting for your money so you can make a shrewd financial decision. Also remember that to avoid the Medicare Levy Surcharge, you must not choose an Excess higher than $500 for individuals and $1000 for couples/families. Find out more about Excess and Co-payments.
5. Pay in advance before the health insurance premium rise
Every year around the beginning of April, health funds around Australia increase their premiums by around 5% with the approval of the Minister for Health. That is to ensure that the health funds can fulfil their obligations to their members, in the face of rising medical costs.
Most health funds will allow you to pay a year's health insurance premium in advance to lock in the previous year's rate for the next 12 months and save money. In most cases, to lock in the cheap health insurance premium of the prior year, you will need to pay within the first quarter (January to March). Sign up to the moneytime newsletter to receive notice on deadlines so you can lock in the rates before the annual price rise.
6. Use providers who have an agreement with your health fund
To receive treatment at the hospital and have your health fund foot the bill, you must go to one that has an agreement with your health fund. To see which health funds have an agreement with your hospital of choice, see moneytime's list of private agreement hospitals.
To receive Extras benefits, see if your health fund has a list of 'preferred providers'. These are practitioners who have special arrangements with your health fund in the way they charge for their services, which often include special rates or 'no Gap' cover, to reduce or eliminate any out-of-pocket expenses.
7. Check your health insurance policy before you get a procedure done
If you're going to a private hospital for a medical system, first check that the hospital has an agreement with your health fund to ensure that you're covered. When you compare health insurance on moneytime, you can see the list of private agreement hospitals for all the health funds using the link provided or on the comparison table.
Also, check with your hospital, doctor and health fund whether there is a gap between the fees they charge and the Government's Medicare Benefits Schedule. If your doctor charges more than Medicare Benefits Schedule and you don't have a 'no Gap' plan, you could be in for a hefty bill. A couple of quick phone calls to your doctor and your health fund can help you avoid out of pocket expenses.
8. Review your health insurance once a year
The best way to make sure you've got the cheapest health insurance policy to suit your needs is to regularly review and compare your health cover with other available policies. The Private Health Insurance Ombudsman recommends that you review your health insurance every year to ensure that you're getting the most & best value for your needs. Your lifestyle can change quite dramatically within 12 months, such as getting married, separated, having kids or your kids leaving home - all of which will impact the type of cover you need.
Switching health funds is easy because your Lifetime Health Cover status is protected and any waiting periods for benefits equal to your current health cover will be waived, under the Private Health Insurance Act 2007, so you can claim straight away on features you held before you switched. Find out more about changing health funds.
9. Going overseas? Suspend your health insurance membership
If you're planning to go abroad for any longer than a few weeks, but less than two years, some health funds allow you to suspend your membership for that period, so you don't have to pay the health insurance premium while you're overseas. During your suspension period, your Lifetime Health Cover status is not affected so you will not have any age loading added on your return. Generally, at the end of your suspension period, you can quickly re-start your membership without additional waiting periods. Still, you must check this with your health fund, as situations may differ.
Also, keep in mind that Australia has reciprocal arrangements with the UK, New Zealand, Italy, Malta, Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden – for more information see www.smartraveller.gov.au.
10. Claim health insurance expenses promptly
It's easy to claim your health insurance benefits on the spot using your health fund membership card, but in cases where you need to put a claim in with your health fund, be sure to do so promptly. Most health funds won't pay benefits that aren't claimed within two years of receiving the treatment you're claiming for. Claims can be made directly with your health insurer or at your local Medicare office, which has a reciprocal agreement with most health funds. You can download claim forms for most of moneytime's partner funds on the health fund pages of our website.