As coronavirus restrictions lift, more and more health services will become available to Australians once again – meaning that you might be using your health insurance for the first time in a while. But is your policy really giving you the best value for money? CHOICE health insurance experts have found that you can save up to $1578 by switching to a different insurer.
"With coronavirus restrictions easing and private hospitals beginning to start elective procedures again, now's the time to look at your health insurance policy," says CHOICE consumer advocate Kate Bower.
"We've been busy crunching the numbers, and we've come up with a number of ways you can save money on your health insurance."
1. Switch your hospital insurance to a cheaper Gold, Silver, or Bronze policy
"The same cover with a different insurer can be hundreds of dollars cheaper," says Bower.
"Whether you have a Gold, Silver or Bronze policy, it's likely that you'll be able to find a cheaper deal that will give you exactly the same amount of cover."
New research from our experts has found you could save up to $1578 a year on hospital cover just by switching to a different policy.
- People with Gold policies could save $932 a year on average by moving to a cheaper policy.
- People with Silver policies could save $576 a year on average.
- People with Bronze policies could save $435 a year on average.
2. Consider a Plus policy if you don't need the full cover of a Gold or Silver policy
We've caught some health insurers selling rip off 'Plus' policies, but if you have specific health needs you may be able to find an affordable Plus policy without paying the full Gold or Silver price. 'Plus' policies cover everything that the equivalent policies cover, plus some additional therapies.
"The Bronze, Silver and Gold tiers are meant to make it easier to choose health insurance, but in reality there are a confusing array of 'Plus' options that include some of the best and worst deals in the market," says Bower.
"If you focus on your specific health needs you may find Bronze Plus or Silver Plus a cheaper alternative – just watch out for health insurers who try to trick you into unwittingly paying more."
Compare all policies – with no sponsored results! – using our comparison tool.
3. Avoid commercial comparison websites when picking a policy
"Choosing a health insurance policy can be difficult, and you might turn to the first site you find on Google for advice," says Bower.
"However, it's important to be wary of commercial comparison sites – they may not have your best interests at heart.
"If you buy insurance through a commercial comparison site, for example, they often earn a commission and may not compare much of the health insurance market at all. As a nonprofit consumer advocate, CHOICE independently compares 37 health funds, while some commercial sites compare as few as seven."
If you're looking for an independent health insurance comparison tool, we can help you compare hundreds of policies and find health insurance that's the best fit for you.
4. See if there's a tax benefit to having health cover
The health insurance industry is in trouble with the ACCC for potentially misleading Australians about the tax implications of not having health insurance.
If you earn over $90,000 as a single person or $180,000 as a couple you'll be charged the Medicare Levy Surcharge, but most Australians don't earn above that threshold.
If you do fall into this category, you could get a Basic policy to avoid the Medicare Levy Surcharge, but we don't recommend these junk policies if you need cover for health reasons.
If you're not sure how your health insurance will affect your tax, you can use our tool to find out: doineedhealthinsurance.com.au.
5. Consider if you need health insurance at all, especially extras
"CHOICE's long-standing advice is that extras is a glorified savings program," says Bower.
"Extras can be incredibly hard to get value from and you may be better off putting the money you'd spend on an extras policy into a savings account. Whether you have extras or not has no impact on your tax."
Australians have been leaving private health insurance in droves. CHOICE is campaigning for a review into the private health system and better support for Australians financially impacted by COVID-19.
"It's clear a lot of Australians are struggling to pay their private health insurance, and it's fair to consider if you're getting value for it at all," says Bower. "Private health premiums and the out-of-pocket costs that come with claiming on your health insurance are a significant and unexpected stress for many Australians. You should not feel pressured to buy private health insurance above other essentials."