Health insurance premium rises are here again

Noticed a proliferation of private health insurers parading sign-up offers in recent weeks?

In the run-up to the annual April 1 premium rises insurers are doing their utmost to dazzle consumers with sign-up and switching incentives.

The enticements come in all shapes and sizes. This year, offers include one month to six weeks cover free; waivers of some benefit waiting periods; offers of money off the cost of cover; or rewards that can be redeemed as gift cards.

Some also introduced sweeteners for policyholders who refer a friend. As with any offer take the time to read the Terms and Conditions. Some are only attached to combined hospital and extras cover; some offers expire before April; or require payment by direct debit.

More importantly, look beyond the razzle dazzle to make sure you get the policy you really need. If you’re thinking of switching or taking out private health insurance cover for the first time here are three things to consider.

Be aware of the benefits 

Hospital cover helps with some of the costs of staying in hospital while extras cover is for out-of-hospital medical treatments such as physiotherapy, optical and dental. A combined policy covers both hospital and extras.

When you’re selecting a policy check the benefits, exclusions, and limits on any cover. If everyone in your family has glasses it might be a high priority to get extras cover that includes optometry, for instance.

Or you may choose a hospital policy that excludes certain services or conditions from your policy such as pregnancy and birth.

Extras have limits on what you can claim. The more comprehensive the cover the higher the limits are likely to be.

Check waiting periods 

Most health funds have a waiting period before you can claim. The length of the waiting period depends on the type of treatment you receive.

When you change funds you’re entitled to keep the waiting periods you’ve already served.

If you upgrade your cover or change to a policy with a lower excess or gap fees you are likely to have to serve a new waiting period for the difference in cover.

Some two- and six-month waiting periods may be waived to encourage people to sign-up or switch.

Waiting periods for extras vary. Major dental services might have a 12 month wait  and hearing aids 36 months.

You can claim a once-only waiting period exemption for mental health services.

Know the excess or co-payment

Agreeing to pay an excess if you need a hospital stay is one way to reduce your premium. An excess may apply every time you go to hospital in a year or it may be capped at a total amount if you go to hospital more than once in a year.

A co-payment or a daily excess means you agree to pay a set amount each day you are in hospital.

Need to trim your premium?

To keep a lid on private health costs:-

Compare policies via;

  • Renew your policy before April 1;
  • Pay by direct debit;
  • Secure a corporate or a youth discount.

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