Ask LH: Which Private Health Insurance Should I Get?

Hey Lifehacker, I am overwhelmed by the options available for private health insurance. I am confused over which type of cover would be the best and cheapest to choose from. My partner and I are planning for a baby by next year end so I would want an insurer that would cover the pregnancy charges as well. Thanks, Unsure

Medicine/cash image: Shutterstock

Dear Unsure,

Choosing a private health insurer definitely isn't something you want to rush into. In a recent study, CHOICE looked at more than 25,000 health insurance policies including hospitals and extras across 19 health care funds. It found that on average, members pay around one fifth of their total health care expenditure; the highest contribution in the English speaking world. There has also been a spate of price hikes, which has forced many members to downgrade their level of cover.

Your first port of call should be privatehealth.gov.au. This is a government run website that provides a wealth of information on private health insurance in Australia; including a comprehensive comparison tool that can help you choose the right policy for you and your family.

This is essentially an in-depth questionnaire that narrows down the options into a manageable size based on your answers. If you're not sure about the level of cover you want, this is an excellent place to start.

Unfortunately, the majority of basic policies do not cover obstetrics/pregnancy or only pay restricted benefits. It's also important to note that you will need to serve a waiting period when you start a new private health insurance policy.

For obstetrics, there is a maximum waiting period of 12 months. You'll therefore need to organise your health insurance well in advance of the actual pregnancy. (If your partner hasn't served the full waiting period before being admitted to hospital she won't be able to claim any benefits.)

To keep costs down, review your extras and hospital cover and only sign up for stuff you need. You may be able to get a discount by paying annually or via direct debit. You should also check to see whether you qualify to join a restricted membership fund. Good luck!

If any readers have a health insurance recommendation, particularly for customers who are up the duff, please let Unsure know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    Have a think about Public vs Private - although having private cover will cover in hosptial costs, you will still be thousands out of pocket on obstetrician fees during the pregnancy. The advantages of private is that you get a bit more choice (depending on where you live) of doctor, maybe a better chance of a private room (depending on the hostpital).

    Talk to the hospitals nearby where you think you might want to go - find out which Health Insurers they have agreements with that might give you better bang for buck.

    (If your partner hasn’t served the full waiting period before being admitted to hospital she won’t be able to claim any benefits.)
    What makes you think the OP is a male?

      What makes you think the quoted statement indicates the OP is a male?

      Possibly from the 'ask lifehacker' form where you enter your name and email address…!??!

    I just got health insurance for the first time recently. HCF seemed pretty good, plus they had good prices and I got a 10% discount through my motoring club.

    Hey guys, I have worked in the Private health insurance industry for over 8 years now. I would recommend the below companies.
    - Health.com.au - new company on the market with some really well valued policies for money and i've heard they have great customer service
    - HCF - A long top standing health fund, well priced, solid cover, little pricier
    - NIB - for the cheaper type policies if health insurance is just a requirement for some reason.

      HCF: 10% OFF for RAA members

    Remember if you use something like i-Select they only offer policies to health insurers prepared to pay them a commission. So its a subset of the overall market.

    You have nothing to lose by contacting a comparison service. At Help Me Choose, our Health Agents are here to inform consumers about the many health insurance options available. Comparison sites have access to all available policies (via the government website) which allows us to discuss your specific policy with the others we have on our panel. Should you be on the right policy for your needs, we’ll tell you to stay with your current provider. For us, it’s not about the sale, it’s about what’s best for the customer once we’ve discussed their options with them. Most importantly, the advice handed down by our Health Agents is totally unbiased (it’s also a free service).

    Here are some practical and effective tips for getting a good deal on your private health insurance:

    1. Review your cover and compare your options on regular basis (at least annually).

    2. Tailor your plan and inclusions to your specific personal needs at the time. Don’t pay for services you don’t think you will need in the next 1 or 2 years.

    3. Opt to pay higher excess if you do end up going to a hospital. If you are willing to pay a higher excess in the unlikely event you do end up in hospital as a “private patient” (as opposed to someone treated under the Medicare system), you could save a substantial amount on your premiums. This strategy is not suitable for everyone but if you think it’s right for you, you should definitely consider it.

    4. Pay your premium for an entire year in advance if you can afford to. This means the annual increase in premiums (usually around April each year) won’t apply to you until the year after.

    5. Pay your premiums by direct debit through your bank account instead of using a credit card. Many health funds will give you a discount if you do that and with some, this discount can be as high as 4%.

    6. Keep an eye out for promotional offers. This might not necessarily save you money but instead might help you avoid waiting periods on various extras or get a higher level of cover for no extra cost.

    The government's comparison tool for comparing health insurance mentioned in this post is very comprehensive but is quite hard to use and you then also need to go to the website of the particular insurer, find the particular plan and submit your application.

    The policy selection process can be made easier by using a commercial comparison and referral service for private health insurance. Such service will also usually have a streamlined application process while still being able to get the same prices as going direct.

    Problem is that most of these commercial services are very biased in their recommendations and also only cover a very small amount of insurers and plans (basically only those that pay them a commission).

    There is ONE such service in Australia that I think is trustworthy and which I have personally used myself on several occasions and am therefore happy to recommend.
    They have the widest coverage amongst ALL commercial comparison services in Australia (including funds which do not pay them a commission).
    Also, they are the ONLY such service currently operating in this country that will SHARE their referral commission with the people who use their service 50/50.

    You can the complete details in this post:
    http://spendinghacker.com.au/health-insurance-betterbills/

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