Need to know
- Many health funds charge single parents 30% less than two-parent families – if you're paying the same as a two-parent family, review your policy
- Some insurers offer perks for children, like no excess for hospital visits or gap-free dental check-ups
- Review your health insurance at least once a year to make sure you're getting the best deal for you and your family
Single-parent families are unfairly treated by health insurance providers in ways that don't make a lot of sense.
While two-parent families usually pay the same premiums as couples (meaning their kids are insured for free), single parents are charged extra for their children's health cover.
On average, single parent policies cost 66% more than single policies and some funds even charge single parents the same premium as two-parent families.
This means it's especially important for single parents to compare health insurance policies and see what their options are.
Aside from premiums, though, some insurers do give special treatment to kids, whether you're a single or a two-parent family, including:
- no excess or co-payments for children if they need to go to hospital
- free extras services for children (if they go to the dentist, for example)
- extended coverage for full-time students on your family policy up to age 31 (an extra cost may apply for other young adults).
Read more about the perks available for children in the best health insurance for families.
In Australia health insurance policies are categorised into four tiers:
- Basic – very little if any cover in a private hospital
- Bronze – low cover
- Silver – medium cover
- Gold – full or top cover.
In between these main tiers there are also Silver Plus, Bronze Plus and Basic Plus policies that cover at least one service more than the normal Silver, Bronze or Basic policies. For example, a Silver Plus policy could include cover for pregnancy or cataract surgery (services usually only covered under Gold policies).
Since April 2007, private health funds have been able to give single parents a reduced premium compared to the family rate. Before that time, health insurance regulation meant that single parents always paid the same premium as two-parent families.
So single parents generally don't pay as much as they used to, but they still pay more than singles. And not all health funds charge single parents lower premiums than families.
CHOICE tip: If you've been a loyal customer and stayed with the same fund and policy for the past 10 years or more, you may be stuck in the old system. Check with your insurer.
For the funds that do offer lower premiums to single parents, the amount can vary. Most of them charge single parents 10–30% less than families.
Health funds may also offer single parents lower premiums for hospital cover, but not extras cover.
Policies offering single parents a better deal
The policies we found that penalise single parents the least are:
- Medibank Bronze Plus Assured with excess at $500 or $750, which charges single parents a 33-43% premium increase compared to a single without a child
- HCI Gold, which charges a 40% premium increase for single parents
- Navy Health Gold, Silver Plus and Bronze Plus, which charge 40% extra on top of standard single cover.
Worst policies for single parents
The below hospital policies charge single-parent families the same price as two-parent families.
- NIB-brand funds (NIB, AAMI, ING, Suncorp, Priceline, Real and Seniors) charge single parents more than couples for Gold Hospital cover policies. This means it costs you more to add a child than an adult to your single policy.
- St.Luke'sHealth (across all policies).
- Reserve Bank (Gold).
- Hunter Health (no policies specifically available for single parents, which means you have to pay for a family policy).
Check what's included
Discounts aren't everything. Some funds that charge single parents the same as families may offer cheaper policies with better value for money than other funds that do offer a discount. Use our comparison tool to review health insurance policies and see which ones are best for your situation and needs.
On their Gold combined hospital and extras policies, Medibank and Bupa charge single parents only 9% less than families. At the same time, couples pay the same as families and singles pay half the family rate.*
|Gold Ultra Health Cover||Gold Ultimate Health Cover|
*Monthly premiums in NSW without the health insurance rebate (as of September 2023). Bupa will increase its premiums on 1 October 2023.
If you've finished having children, you may be considering downgrading to a policy without pregnancy and fertility cover – but this isn't as simple as it might seem.
In principle it makes sense not to pay for cover you won't be using, but very few policies exclude pregnancy and fertility services without also excluding things you may still need, and those that do are often only a few dollars cheaper than full cover Gold policies. Some are even more expensive than policies that cover everything.
You might find yourself without cover for something you'll actually need
There's another pitfall, too: policies that restrict or exclude some procedures can be changed to exclude more procedures. So unless you keep track of all the material the fund sends you and regularly check your policy, you might find yourself without cover for something you'll actually need.
In general, you tend to be better off with a policy that covers everything, as funds are much less likely to add restrictions to those.
We know getting a handle on this stuff can seem like a chore. It's why our health insurance experts have put together a handy five-step action plan to help you through the process of reviewing, comparing and switching your health insurance policy.
Just a few minutes could potentially save you hundreds of dollars per year: one of our CHOICE editors saved herself over $1800 annually by simply reviewing and switching cover for her young family.
Follow these five easy steps below.
Health insurance terms explained
An extra amount, such as $500, charged once per hospital stay. It usually applies once (singles) or twice (couples and families) per year.
An extra amount, such as $70, that you pay per day while in hospital. It's usually capped per hospital stay or per year.
Health funds sign up dental practices or optical stores as part of their preferred provider network. Some clinics are even owned by the fund.
Preferred providers may offer a discount to a health fund's members, or the health insurer may pay members higher benefits if they go to preferred providers. For example, instead of a set dollar benefit, the fund may pay a percentage benefit, such as 75% of the bill, which can result in lower out-of-pocket costs for you.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.