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How to choose the best health insurance for single-parent families

Expert tips to help you find the best-value cover for you and your kids.

Last updated: 22 February 2022


Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Need to know

  • Health insurance premiums for many health funds will increase on 1 April, so it's a good time to make sure you're getting the best deal for you and your family
  • Many health funds charge single parents 10–30% less than two-parent families – if you're paying the same as a two-parent family, review your policy

Single-parent families are unfairly treated by health insurance providers in ways that don't make a lot of sense. 

While two-parent families pay the same premiums as couples (meaning their kids are insured for free), single parents are charged extra for their children's health cover.

At the same time, single parents' health insurance premiums are higher than singles without kids, and some funds even charge single parents the same premium as two-parent families. Doesn't seem fair, does it?

Therefore it's especially important for single parents to compare health insurance policies and see what their options are.

Aside from premiums, though, 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 students up to the age of 25.

Read more about the perks for children in the best health insurance for families.

The four tiers of health insurance

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).

Best health funds for single parents

Since April 2007, health insurance 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.

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.

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.

Health funds may also offer single parents lower premiums for hospital cover, but not extras cover. 

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 tool to compare health insurance and see which policies are best for your situation and needs.

How Medibank and Bupa compare

On their Gold combined hospital and extras policy Medibank charges single parents only 8% less than families and Bupa only 7% less. At the same time, couples pay the same as families and singles pay half the family rate.*

   Medibank Bupa 
  Gold Ultra Health Cover Gold Ultimate Health Cover
Single $530 $507.65
Single Parent $978.4 $942.75
Couple $1060 $1015.30
Family $1060 $1015.30
Difference 8% 7%

*Monthly premiums in NSW without the health insurance rebate, as of February 2022. HBF, HCF and NIB do not offer combined Gold hospital and extras policies

Should you downgrade your policy if you're done having kids?

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: 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. 

Therefore, you tend to be better off with a policy that covers everything, as funds are much less likely to add restrictions to those.

Five steps to better, cheaper health insurance

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 just by reviewing and switching cover for her young family. Follow these five easy steps.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.