Private health insurance costs top the worry list

The latest CHOICE Consumer Pulse reveals widespread money stress.

Health cover our most confusing financial decision

A great many Australian households are under financial pressure these days, and three out of five are worried about their levels of disposable income and the size of their savings and investment accounts.

It's fair to say that many might be in a tight spot if someone lost a job or an unexpected expense came up.

It hasn't helped that the cost of private health insurance just keeps going up – or that consumers remain confused about whether they even need private cover in a country with public healthcare.

In fact, the cost of health insurance is the number one financial worry for Australians, according to the latest CHOICE Consumer Pulse nationwide survey. It also topped the list in our previous quarterly survey after a long run of electricity costs causing the most concern.

People keeping health insurance, despite concerns over poor value

Our research reveals that 65% of households in Australia are just squeaking by, and 81% are concerned about the costs of health insurance – up from 75% 12 months ago.

And while more and more Australians are convinced that private health insurance offers poor value for money, the level of uptake hasn't changed in the last 12 months.

Out of 13 major purchase areas we researched, health insurance emerged as trickiest financial decision consumers face, with 62% finding the array of funds and policy options overly complicated.

Among Australians who don't have private health insurance, 77% believe it's either too expensive or not worth the cost. 

And though consumers were meant to have been notified of the recent reforms to the health insurance sector that started on 1 April this year, less than half had heard about them before they took effect.

Get updated on health insurance changes

Read our clear and simple of explanation of the government's new gold, silver, and bronze health insurance categories (which are not as simple as we'd hoped) to determine which one – if any – suits your situation.

And check out the five things you really need to know about the recent changes.

Better yet, take our quiz to find out if you need private health insurance to begin with.

And if you're asking Should I cancel my health cover?, see what our expert says.

Energy costs still spooking consumers

The cost of electricity is also stressing household budgets, with 78% of household identifying it as a major concern.

The cost of gas is less worrisome than it has been in recent years, but 55% of households are still worried about being able to afford it.

At CHOICE, we're all about keeping consumers informed about the best performing and most efficient household heating products, as tested by our expert team in the legendary CHOICE test labs.

With electricity and gas costs likely to remain on the worry list for a long time to come, it pays to find the least wasteful products. We reveal which ones are cheapest to run in our:

Full disclosure: these product reviews require a CHOICE subscription. But we're quite sure you'll save more than the $83.95 it costs for a year of CHOICE membership – or $26.95 for three months – by picking the best performing and most energy-efficient product.

And your money will go toward fighting the good fight for consumers on many fronts!

Super performance and telco costs less pressing

On a somewhat happier note, concerns about the cost of mobile and internet services are the lowest they've been in the four years we've been tracking household financial pressure through our CHOICE Consumer Pulse surveys.

And concerns about the value of superannuation accounts has also eased, though one in two households are still worried, down from a high of 62% in 2015.