How to read the letter from your fund
New government changes to health insurance came in on 1 April.
If you haven't already, you'll soon get a letter from your health insurance fund about changes to your policy.
We've analysed over 1000 recent letters from Bupa, Medibank, NIB, HCF and more. Here, we explain how to read the letter from your health fund and how to decide whether or not you should switch.
Key things to check:
Check your policy's 1 April price rise and what it means for your budget. For example, if you're a single with top hospital cover, the average premium increase of 3.25% could mean you pay about $83 more a year. A family with top cover might need to budget an extra $165.
- You may have lost cover for some services. If you need this cover – for example, you're planning a pregnancy or anticipating a hip replacement – upgrade or switch policies before before the changes come into effect (1 April or 1 July, for example) to avoid re-serving waiting periods for these. (Waiting periods can be up to 12 months.)
- If you missed the deadline, i.e. if the changes already came into effect on 1 April, ring your health fund to ask if they'll still allow you to upgrade without re-serving the waiting period.
- If you don't need this cover, consider switching policies, as you could save money.
- We'll be busy analysing the best policies over the next couple of months, so if you need a policy before then, www.privatehealth.gov.au is the next-best place to go.'
What if you're already using the cover you're set to lose?
If you're currently having treatment, are pregnant or have surgery booked, the changes may not affect you for at least three to six months. Call or email your insurer to confirm.
If you don't need this cover, consider switching policies, as you could save money.
CHOICE tip: If your fund upgrades your cover you usually won't have to serve a waiting period for the new services. Call or email your insurer to confirm.
- If your policy hasn't changed for now, be aware that most hospital policies will change at least their name before April 2020. So watch out for another letter from your insurer.
Natural therapies like homeopathy, naturopathy, Pilates and yoga are no longer be covered by your extras policy under the new rules.
If you want to keep cover for exercise classes, choose a policy that includes:
- gym membership
- exercise physiology
- physiotherapy (check you're covered for Pilates-type exercises that are tailored for your health condition and provided by a registered physiotherapist).
Check if your excess will go up, or if your existing policy didn't have an excess, check if it now will.
An excess is a contribution towards each hospital stay that you can opt to pay to reduce your premiums. So a new or increased excess could mean a smaller premium increase or even a decrease in your premium. But not everyone will want to pay an excess.
Should you accept a new or increased excess?
- If you're not likely to go to hospital in the next year (i.e. you have no current health problems) and therefore not likely to have to pay the excess, stay on your policy to take advantage of the reduced premium.
- If you think you'll go to hospital in the next year (e.g. you're planning to get pregnant or think you'll need surgery soon) switch to a policy with a lower excess before the changes come into effect. If you missed the deadline, call your health fund and ask if you can still upgrade without a waiting period.
How you can save
Choose a higher excess
Higher excesses than previously available (up to $750 per person and $1500 per couple/family) will be an option on some policies after 1 April. Choosing a higher excess will reduce your premium and could potentially save you more than prepaying.
Get an under-30s discount
For every year you're under 30, funds will now offer a discount of 2% on your premium on some policies, up to a maximum of 10% for 18 to 25 year olds. You can keep the full discount till you're 40, if you don't switch cover before that.
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