After last week’s Federal Budget, everyone is thinking about their household budget even more than previously, especially when it comes to one of the most important items for families - health care.
Not only are families expected to pay health insurance premiums, but a new $7 co-payment to visit the GP and receive other common health services will be required from 1 July next year. Many people have already been paying a much larger co-payment for some time; the new co-payment is for those who have previously been ‘bulk billed’, that is received all GP services for nothing.
But with the recent health insurance premium increase, and a general lack of confidence in the financial outlook, many people are being forced to look at their household expenses.
It’s a good time to be assessing existing health insurance policies or shopping around for another to ensure you’re receiving the best deal. You can’t choose private health insurance based on premium prices alone – you need to know how you will use that policy, as the potential returns you receive in claims can save you thousands. For instance, two policies might have $3 between them in their premiums, but one can give back thousands more a year in extras services and claims.
At comparethemarket.com.au, we recommend you assess the services your policy provides – particularly the extras. Up until now, you may have been happy with a more comprehensive policy that afforded some ancillary ‘luxury’ services – you may now be looking to compare policies and trim the fat off extras you no longer need. Either way, my six tips below will help you assess and manage your health insurance costs before the annual premium rate rise.
6 tips for managing private health insurance costs:
1. Remember to claim
The cost of your private health insurance overall is a balance between the premium and your potential returns through claims. You must claim to ensure your return on investment, particularly with Extras policies. When making a booking with your healthcare provider, check they offer HICAPS – this gives you an immediate claim. The risk of claiming at a later date is you might forget altogether – which we think many do.
2. Know a policy’s returns in potential claims before buying
When speaking with policy holders, we find most people forget what they’re insured for and what amount they can claim back. For these, the cost of private healthcare becomes a liability, not a benefit. You cannot buy private health insurance and file it away. When assessing the value of a policy, know the services you claimed for in the last 12 months, how often you claimed, your spend on health services which you didn’t or couldn’t claim for, and any new services you might want to claim for in the following year.
3. Take advantage of discounts
Some funds will discount premiums by 4 per cent for direct debit payments, while others will discount by 4 per cent for annual payments and 2 per cent for bi-annual payments.
4. Look out for promotions
Some health insurers will offer the first month of cover for free for a limited time, while others may offer vouchers of up to $200 if you refer a new member.
5. Switch and receive a refund from your old policy
Many people don’t know that if they switch suppliers, their old policy will refund any premiums paid in advance. The new policy will start the day after the old policy ceases.
6. Have someone support you to compare
With more than 13,000 health insurance policies available for comparison on comparethemarket.com.au/health-insurance alone, choosing the most suitable policy and knowing how to maximise the benefits can be daunting. Choose a free service that provides a range of customer supports (such as online chat, phone and email support) to help you find the best policy to suit your needs.