Health cover is essential for many Aussie families, but as household costs go up across the board, it can be tough to afford. If you’re feeling the pinch in your wallet each time you pay your monthly premiums, it’s time to do something about it.
Health cover premiums aren’t a fixed cost, and there are steps you can take to save money that don’t mean giving up your cover. Here are eight ways to save on health cover, without even leaving the house.
1. Shop around
Australians know that finding a good deal comes from shopping around. We do it when we’re in the market for big purchases, like a new house or a car, so why do so many of us drop the ball when it comes to health cover?
The Australian health insurance market has no shortage of insurers, and this high level of competition means serious savings opportunities for customers.
Online technology has made comparing prices an easy and relatively quick task. If you’re not shopping around for health cover, chances are, you’re paying too much.
2. Increase your excess
Many hospital policies have a choice of excess, or the amount you’ll pay for services before your health cover benefits kick in. As a general rule of thumb, the higher your excess, the lower your premiums.
Boosting your excess from $250 to $500 can mean higher out of pocket costs if you do go to hospital, but it can reduce your monthly premiums in the meantime.
3. Review your cover regularly
When’s the last time you took a close look at your health cover? Has it been a year, or maybe longer? Time to pull out your policy documents and review what you’re covered for.
Life changes, and so do your health needs. If you don’t check in on your health cover regularly—once a year or more—you risk paying for services you don’t need or use.
For example, are you paying for a family policy after your adult kids have left home? Or maybe you’re still paying for pregnancy cover even though you don’t intend to have more children.
Review your health cover to be sure it’s still doing its job efficiently. If not, it might be time to shop around and make the switch.
4. Pay 12 months upfront
Did you know that your insurer can increase your premium at their discretion? Unfortunately, it’s true, and it usually happens at least once a year on 1 April. This is the date when the annual health insurance price hike kicks in, leaving us reaching deeper into our pockets.
You can avoid unexpected price hikes by paying for a year upfront. This might not be an option for everyone, as it requires a larger upfront cost, but it could save you money over a 12 month period.
5. Look for member networks
Does your health fund offer a member network? If not, you might want to look into one that does. This is a network of participating medical professionals who have agreements in place with a health fund.
These agreements might be able to provide no gap services to members, or a lower negotiated rate on services. Either way, you’ll likely save on out of pocket costs.
6. Get cover before you turn 31
If you don’t have hospital cover before 1 July following your 31st birthday, your health cover is going to be more expensive when you do buy it. That’s because of Lifetime Health Cover loading, or LHC.
LHC is a 2% loading fee added to your premium for every year you are aged over 30, but it only applies if you don’t have hospital cover by the deadline. Save yourself some serious cash and get your hospital cover organised before your base date (that’s 1 July following your 31st birthday).
7. Take advantage of portability laws
We mentioned shopping around for health cover and reviewing your cover regularly, but some people are still hesitant to switch. What if you lose your waiting periods and have to start from scratch?
Thanks to portability laws, you won’t have to—as long as you don’t have a gap in cover, and you’re switching to a policy with equal or less cover.
Let’s say you have hospital cover that includes pregnancy, and you’ve held the cover for 3 years. You’ve had two children and don’t plan to have any more, so you’d like to downgrade your cover.
The problem is, you’ve got high blood pressure, which is classed as a pre-existing condition. Will you have to serve another 12 month waiting period before you can claim related benefits with a new policy?
The answer here is no. Since you’ve already served the waiting period for this hospital benefit, you’re already covered and are free to switch—and save.
8. Scoop up discounts
Take a look at the terms and conditions of your policy. Could you save by bundling your hospital and extras policy together with one insurer? Or maybe you could score a discount for paying by direct debit. Every dollar counts, so don’t miss out on discounts that are available to you.
Saving money on health cover can be done, and it only takes a minimal effort on your part. Keep an eye on your policy, shop around, and don’t be afraid to switch if you see something better out there.