How to compare the best health insurance providers and plans

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Finding the best health insurance for your needs can sometimes feel like trying to navigate a maze. Australia has so many health insurers to choose from and even more tiers and plans available that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. And when you’re feeling pressured, it’s completely natural to want to stick with what you know. But if you don’t see what else is out there, you’re bound to end up paying the lazy tax.

We know that saving money is important to you, which is why we’re here to cut through the complexities of health insurance comparisons and give you practical steps to find a better deal on your private health insurance.

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What do I need to consider when I compare health insurance policies?

Trying to find the best health insurance policy among so many different providers and tiers can be totally overwhelming – we get it. But breaking down your needs by a few key considerations can make the whole process much simpler. Here are seven factors that might influence your decision when comparing health insurance.

1. Your age

Your healthcare needs change as you get older. Paying for a comprehensive policy in your early 20s, for example, might not be as useful as it would be for someone in their 30s who plans on starting a family soon. Make it a rule that you will compare health policies at different life stages or whenever a major milestone occurs – that way you can get appropriate cover when you’re a young single, part of a growing family, an empty-nester and a retiree.

2. Number of people getting cover

If you’re taking out health cover for your whole family, look for policies that cater to your particular lifestyle and needs. Also keep an eye out for tiers or extras policies that cover things like orthodontics and pregnancy-related services. With a dedicated family policy, you can make sure everyone gets the necessary cover without unnecessary expenses.

3. Level of cover

Take a moment to reflect on how often you’ll be using certain services. Going for a Gold tier plan might be the best move if you want to start a family soon, as most of the highest hospital cover tiers include pregnancy and obstetrics services. But if you don’t expect to use most of the higher-tier services anytime soon, going for a lower level of cover like Bronze or Basic could help you avoid overpaying for things you simply won't use.

4. Your budget

While cost is a critical factor, it shouldn’t come at the expense of proper coverage. Compare policies that strike a balance between affordability and breadth of services. Also factor in any possible budget constraints – but beware of policies with extremely low premiums that might not give you much cover when you actually need to make a claim.

5. Out-of-pocket costs

Don’t forget about excess and co-payments. While choosing a higher excess might give you lower premiums, consider whether you’ll be able to afford the upfront costs in case of a claim. With co-payments, read the policy’s PDS to make sure you’re across any additional costs that are associated with specific treatments or services.

6. Waiting periods

Be mindful of waiting periods. Some policies will impose waiting periods for specific services – even if you’ve held private health cover before. If you are switching to a plan of a similar level or less, you should be fine. But if you are going up a tier or taking out extras only cover, you may have to see out new waiting periods.

7. Extras and benefits

Speaking of extras, think about whether it could be useful in your current life stage. From dental and optical to mental health services, you can easily tweak your policy to your health priorities.

How do I compare health insurance plans?

  1. Review your current policy: Start by looking back through your current health insurance policy. Take note of its strengths and weaknesses, and consider whether a switch could mean better coverage, fewer exclusions and reduced out-of-pocket expenses. Knowing what you have right now gives you a baseline for comparison.
  2. Consider changing life circumstances: Life changes, and so do your healthcare needs. If your family is growing or you’re approaching your golden years, for example, then it might be time to switch up your cover.
  3. Compare premiums and benefits: Take a moment to scrutinise the premiums and benefits of different policies. That means looking beyond the upfront costs and seeing the value of the benefits offered. Make sure the policy covers essential services and extras relevant to your health needs.
  4. Pay attention to any new waiting periods: Waiting periods can vary between providers and tiers. Think about your immediate healthcare needs and go for a policy with waiting periods that align with them.

Different ways to compare

While comparing health insurance plans can seem like a daunting prospect, there are a few different ways you can go about it:

  • Call your existing provider: Mention that you are looking to switch up your policy and ask about potential discounts or better benefits they might be able to offer. Loyalty is sometimes rewarded.
  • Shop around: Contact insurers you’re interested in to understand the range of plans they have available. Each provider may have unique features or be able to entice you with benefits.
  • Use an online comparison tool: Here’s our favourite strategy. You can take advantage of online comparison tools that do all the heavy lifting for you. They can analyse multiple plans and provide a comprehensive overview of policies that might suit you – all in a matter of moments.

Private health insurance is confusing – so let someone else do the hard work for you. Use an online comparison tool (like the one at the top of this page!) that streamlines the entire process and will help you find the most suitable plan.

How often should I compare health insurance plans?

Reviewing your health insurance is a bit like getting your car serviced regularly – it makes sure everything is running smoothly. A good rule of thumb is to compare health insurance plans annually, or whenever a significant life change occurs.

If you’ve had a major lifestyle shift, like starting a family or nearing retirement, it’s time for a health cover check-up. Changes in your health needs, income or family size can also impact the effectiveness of your current plan.

Don’t let your policy gather dust. Instead, keep it in tip-top shape by revisiting it regularly. Think of it as a health check for your financial wellbeing as well as your physical health – making sure you’re properly covered and not paying for extras you don’t actually need!

What are the biggest benefits of a health insurance comparison?

Comparing health insurance policies and providers can unlock a number of big benefits – and if you don’t bother to look, you’ll never know how much you could be saving! Not only will it mean you can match the policy to your lifestyle needs right now, but it can help you avoid costly taxes and loading fees from the Medicare levy surcharge and lifetime health cover loading.

Here are just a few of the top benefits of doing a health insurance comparison every so often:

  • Cheaper premiums: Choosing a plan that aligns with your current needs can stop you from overpaying on premiums. It can also mean you get cover that you actually use, rather than seeing cover for expensive services go to waste.
  • Avoiding the Medicare levy surcharge: Getting private health insurance – whether you are taking out cover for the first time or switching to a better policy – can exempt you from costly outlays at tax time, depending on your age and income.
  • No lifetime health cover (LHC) loading: There’s a 2% annual increase to LHC loading if you don’t hold hospital cover once you turn 31. That’s a cost you can avoid by keeping private health insurance – and switching to a new policy won’t affect your exemption.

Final word

Regularly reassessing your needs and comparing plans doesn’t have to take hours – with an online comparison tool, it’s a super-easy way to stay on top of your health and financial game.

Don’t let apathy cost you. Comparing and switching to a better provider or policy could potentially save you thousands of dollars in wasted premiums. After all, it’s not just about health cover – it's about your peace of mind. Start comparing today to secure a healthier and wealthier future.

Simon Jones
Written by
Simon Jones
Simon has spent more than 15 years covering the technology and finance sectors as both a journalist and content marketer. He is fascinated by the convergence of AI and big data, and spends what little free time he can scrape together either wrangling two kids or expanding his gin collection.

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