The 1 April annual date for private health insurers to increase their charges has come and gone, but if you missed the opportunity to save by switching to another provider there are still ways to cut your healthcare bill.
First of all, if you missed the 1 April deadline, there is some good news.
More than two dozen private health funds, including leading funds such as Bupa, AAMI, APIA and Medibank, have delayed their increases until later in the year, in some cases as late as November.
This provides an opportunity to shop around for a cheaper deal.
The average increase before the 1 April deadline was 2.7 per cent. If your policy is going up by more than that, it’s time to look elsewhere.
Prepay may also offer some savings. Some funds offer a discount for prepaying your premium.
Prepaying before the annual price rise also locks in the cheaper price. You might even be able to lock in for longer than 12 months.
Some insurers are also offering 13 months, 18 months and in the case of HCF, you can lock in your premium until 2024.
You can also weigh up if you are willing to pay a higher excess.
A hospital excess is the amount of money you pay out of your own pocket towards the bill for any hospital stay. It must be paid before your stay.
If you feel confident you are not going to need a hospital visit during the life of the policy, you can opt for a higher excess and reduce your premium.
Going the extra step
You don’t have to have the same provider for the hospital and ‘extras’. Research your options on whether it would be worth it to buy hospital and extra cover from separate providers. You might get better, individual deals from different providers.
And have a good think if you need extras at all. If you aren’t making an annual claim on many of the extras you pay for it may pay to drop them all together or go with a policy that only has the extras you need.
Depending on what stage of life you are in you might not need obstetrics or children’s orthodontics.
Check what level of insurance you are on. Hospital cover comes in four levels: gold, silver, bronze and basic.
Review your policy and consider if you are on a higher tier, weigh up if you need to drop down a tier or two.
Some funds offer discounts for direct debit payments. Examine if this could make a difference to you annual spend. The discount can be up to 4 per cent.
Some companies, superannuation funds and clubs and associations have membership arrangements with health funds as part of their employment or membership packages. See if you qualify.
Do you need it?
Of course, the ultimate saving in private health cover is cancelling it all together. Many people are taking a long hard look at whether the cost is even worth it.
It’s a gamble, but it’s an option many Australians may weigh up as the cost of living continues to climb.
However, before you drop your health insurance it may be worth considering the public health system’s COVID-related backlog. Waiting times on treatment and elective surgery have blown out and it may be better to stay with a private fund for that reason alone.
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