Confused about the ins and outs of Lifetime Health Cover insurance? Here’s what you need to know.
What It Is
Lifetime Health Cover (LHC) is designed to encourage more Australians to take out private hospital cover during their 20s. It doesn’t cover general ancillary cover or ambulance travel unless they’re part of a private health insurance policy that also includes private hospital cover.
Why Arrange Private Health Cover?
Many Australians don’t see the need for private health insurance and are content to rely on Medicare for free or cheap hospital treatment and services. With Medicare, you’re treated as a public patient in a public hospital and the benefits are more restricted in comparison to also having private healthcare cover. As a private patient, you can choose who treats you and where you’re treated and don’t have to wait for a bed to become available in a public hospital.
How It Works
If you take out private hospital cover on or before your “base day” – the 1st of July in the year that you turn 31 – you’ll only be charged the base rate premium. For new migrants to Australia, your base date may be one year after you registered for full Medicare benefits if that date comes after your base date. If you decide to arrange hospital cover after your base date, you’ll be given an LHC age, which is used to determine the loading fees that you’ll pay on top of your premiums each year.
Signing up for a private health insurance policy that includes hospital cover after the 1st of July following your 31st birthday results in loading fees determined by your LHC age. Your LHC age is usually thirty if you sign up for hospital cover before your base date. Otherwise, it is your age on the 1st July prior to the day that you took out hospital cover. If you’re still confused, you can work it out by going to the Private Health website and submitting your answers to the questions in the LHC calculator.
As loading fees are a 2 per cent addition on top of your premiums for every year that your LHC age exceeds thirty, it works out much cheaper to arrange private hospital cover before you reach 31 where possible, to ‘lock in’ the base rate premium for life. Base rate premiums can vary depending on the insurance provider but are always more cost-effective than taking out private hospital cover later in life.
Loading fees are removed after ten years, provided that you still retain your hospital cover. If you drop your hospital cover after this point, you may still have to pay loading fees in the future.
New migrants to Australia who are aged over 31 are exempt from the loading fees as long as they take out private hospital cover within twelve months of registering for Medicare. If you were born on or before July 1st 1934, you’re also exempt from the loading fees.
Changing Your Hospital Cover
Changing your coverage levels or switching to a different health fund shouldn’t affect your LHC unless you’re switching to a policy that doesn’t include private hospital cover. In this situation, the ‘permitted days without hospital cover’ guidelines would become relevant. Your loading fees would remain the same until the 1095th day that you’re without hospital cover, at which point the loading would increase by 2 per cent initially and by 2 per cent thereafter for each year that you’re without hospital cover.Image credit