Premium spike: How to get the best deal on your private health insurance

It makes sense to review your private health cover before premiums rise.

It makes sense to review your private health cover before premiums rise. Photo: Getty

You’ve promised to get fit, read more books and spend less time bingeing shows on Netflix.

But what about your personal finances?

Consumer advocates and financial advisers say the beginning of a new year is the perfect time for a financial health check – and that this process must include an assessment of your various insurance policies.

A big one is private health.

On December 23 the federal government confirmed healthcare premiums would rise by an average of 2.7 per cent on April 1.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said it would be the lowest annual premium hike since 2001, but it still represents another hit to our household budgets.

The government says the increase equates to an extra $58 a year for singles and an extra $126 for couples, with many providers hiking their premiums by much more than the average increase.

And so if your insurance policy is about to cost you more money, it makes sense to double check it is up to scratch.

The New Daily has published guides on how to cut your health insurance costs and whether it is worth paying for at all here and here.

And Finder’s personal finance and insurance expert Taylor Blackburn has offered some more tips below.

Make the switch before leaving your old provider

If you decide to switch private health insurance companies, Mr Blackburn said you should confirm the switch to your new provider before ending your relationship with your current one.

“That way, they know that you’ve been paying for insurance the whole way,” he said.

Don’t worry about the wait

And if you find yourself wanting to switch but are worried about having to restart a waiting period, don’t worry – your new provider will honour it.

“If you’ve served those waiting periods for pregnancy, or any of the other waiting periods that you might need to serve, those are honoured when you switch over,” Mr Blackburn said.

Possibly cheaper to go solo

Mr Blackburn said if you are in a relationship, separating insurance policies could save you some money.

He said many couples’ policies include things like pregnancy cover that not every couple will need.

If you still want to be covered as a couple, shop around for different policies that cover potential issues relevant to your relationship and circumstances, he said.

If you’re going private, do it early

If you are getting on in years and have yet to take out private health cover, be wary of Lifetime Health Cover Loading (LHCL).

LHCL charges Australians who take out insurance after their 30th birthdays a surcharge of 2 per cent on top of their health insurance premiums for every year after they turn 30.

This means people taking out their first health insurance policy at the age of 35 will pay a 10 per cent loading on top of their normal premiums.

“So if you wait until you’re 50 to take out private health cover, it’s going to cost you a lot more than if you had it all along,” Mr Blackburn said.

Find your extras elsewhere

Finally, Mr Blackburn said the coming premium hikes relate to private hospital cover rather than extras cover.

So if you feel comfortable with your main cover, but like the extras offered by another provider, you can have the best of both worlds and choose two separate providers.

“The fact that [premium prices are] going up is a reason to assess which plan you’re on and which one is right for you,” he said.

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