Health insurance: Will you be an April fool? (Image via http://vividadvisers.com.au/)

Before you decide to just accept the 1 April price hike on health insurance, or even cancel that all-important health insurance, shop around, says Corinne Gaffney.

FOR THOSE of us with private health insurance, 1 April is when we have to deal with the annual premium increase. This year’s increase is at an industry average of 5.59%. Even though this average is at a four-year low it seems to be receiving more attention than in previous years (2015: 6.18%, 2014:6.20).

Currently, every second advert and news show is about the soaring cost of health insurance and how to beat the price hike by “comparing the market”.

Another driving force would be that the Department of Health is soon to release a report into private health insurance and a possible proposal on reform in this sector. So, it’s getting it’s fair share of publicity, and let’s face it, everyone is looking for a solution to issues affecting our hip pockets.

So what’s the solution? Does shopping around really help? Should we be reducing our level of cover? Will another insurer with a cheaper premium give us the same level of cover? How do I make an informed decision?

The Health Insurance Ombudsman, who protects the interest of private health insurance consumers, does indeed encourage shopping around for a better premium.

So how do you go about shopping around? Well, it’s not just companies like Compare the Market and iSelect that provide comparisons but, you can also use a link on the Ombudsman website, PrivateHealth.gov.au, to use the Compare Policies tool.

One of the benefits of using PrivateHealth.gov.au (besides not having to deal with that annoying meerkat) is that you don’t have to provide your contact information and end up being bombarded by constant emails or calls like when using other consumer sites.

The website also provides info on each fund’s gap scheme as well as helpful hints on reviewing you cover annually to match your needs and lifestyle. Also, you are encouraged to make sure that your waiting periods are protected, and to check ancillary benefits and the hospitals covered … Importantly, confirm what you pay and what the insurance pays.

You may even find that your current insurer could be offering a better premium, so you could challenge them to provide the quoted insurance rate without the effort of changing insurers — as I discovered while helping my Mom with her health insurance.

Or, if you consider that you can’t afford the increased premium, they provide information on options to maintain private health insurance to preserve your Lifetime Health Cover status and avoid the Medicare levy surcharge.

So … before you decide to just accept the price hike, or even cancel that all-important health insurance, shop around … and yes, you can do it without having to deal with any African wildlife …

Wishing you good health — until we have to do it all again next year!

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