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'I saved $1800 by switching my private health insurance'

CHOICE writer Pru Engel didn't pay much attention to her health insurance payments... till she was about to get ripped off.

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Last updated: 11 December 2019

If you have private health insurance, you would have heard from your provider earlier this year about how your policy is affected by the new tiers of cover: Gold, Silver and Bronze.

And if you're like me, you would have filed that email or letter away to deal with later (because accumulating paperwork and bills in a towering 'to do' pile is a special skill of mine). 

Full disclosure: I work as an editor for CHOICE. And part of my job is to write content that helps consumers make better decisions about things such as, well, health insurance. 

Much like a plumber who has leaky taps in their own home, I had failed to follow the advice that I was dishing out to fellow Australians

But, much like a plumber who has leaky taps in their own home, I had failed to follow the advice that I was dishing out to fellow Australians: namely, check communication on the new reforms from your insurance provider, understand how your policy could be changing, and check to see if you can get a better deal somewhere else. 

In a nutshell, pay attention, and do something about it. 

Sounds like good advice, right? Unfortunately, often our busy lives get in the way, and comparing or switching your health insurance isn't always a top priority. It's easy to turn a blind eye, even though it's sucking your bank account dry of up to hundreds of dollars each month.

Time to switch

I was finally motivated to look into my policy when I realised that a deadline was fast approaching. 

Most funds switched members onto new policies earlier this year when the reforms came into effect. But a few funds, including mine, have given members the deadline of 31 December 2019 before their policies switch over to new categories that may not give you the same cover you held previously. 

This means that the time to act, if you haven't already, is now. Your policy may have simply changed in name only, but it's also possible the list of services you're covered for has changed, or you're on an entirely new policy: important stuff you really need to be across to get the best deal possible.

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There could be a better deal out there. Make sure you're getting good value for money and the cover you need.

Crunching the numbers

I'd previously been paying $373.50 a month for top-tier hospital cover for my family (not including any Medicare rebates). After the reforms were introduced, my provider not only increased my premium marginally but made a decision to remove cover for certain treatments from my policy.

They stated that I would be transferred to a new level of cover which would be called Silver Plus. If I wanted to retain the same level of cover that I had before, I'd need to switch to a new policy and I needed to inform them before 31 December 2019.

And the expensive bit? Premiums for this new policy (with exactly the same cover I was getting before) are a whopping $484.86 a month. That's $111.36 extra each month. More than $1300 extra a year. And that's before I've paid a cent for any Extras insurance I might be considering.

I'm no mathematician, but that stank of a bad deal to me.

Frankly, I was about to be ripped off.

Doing my research

At CHOICE, I'm in the uniquely brilliant position of being surrounded by a wealth of health insurance experts who dispense objective, on-tap advice when needed, and who counselled me through the distress/outrage/confusion I felt at being so openly swindled by a provider I had previously trusted. 

A provider whose snappy, direct and friendly marketing had told me they wouldn't rip me off and would always look after me. Ha. My inaction and naivety abandoned, I was on the hunt for a better deal.

I learned that many Australians are on overpriced Silver Plus policies that are more expensive and cover less than Gold policies offered by other providers.

And I logged into CHOICE's health insurance comparison tool to compare health insurance policies and get myself a better deal.

I found many Gold policies at competing providers that were cheaper (but covered more) than the Silver Plus policy I was being offered by my old provider

And find a better deal I did. In fact, one that was almost $1800 cheaper than the policy I would have been moved into by my former fund if I hadn't kicked my procrastination to the kerb. 

Just as our CHOICE investigation into rip-off Silver Plus policies showed, I did find many Gold policies at competing providers that were cheaper (but covered more) than the Silver Plus policy I was being offered by my old provider. 

I ended up settling on a different Silver Plus policy that suited my family for a monthly premium of $334.88 with an excess of $750*. There are a few exclusions I'm no longer covered for, but they weren't services I needed. 

As an added bonus, a feature of the new provider was that they didn't charge an excess for children, saving me an extra $750 should my daughter ever be admitted to hospital. All up, it's saving me around $1800 over a year. 

Worth my time? Yep, I think so.

Finding a policy that suits you

While you might not be able to chat about your health insurance options over a cup of tea in your office with an expert (like I can), you can take advantage of CHOICE's health insurance comparison tool and the pages of useful information available on our site to help you research. 

Make sure you're not in the same leaky boat I'd been placed in by a dodgy provider, and don't miss the chance to bag yourself a better deal.

Your specific health insurance needs will obviously differ from mine or the next person's (as well as any potential savings you can make) but the most important thing is that you find a policy that offers you the best value while giving you the cover you need.

*The policy I switched to from a competitor provider is no longer available.

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