THAT HURTS: Private health cover is not cheap, with the average cost of hospital and extras cover in Australia being $4139 a year.
THAT HURTS: Private health cover is not cheap, with the average cost of hospital and extras cover in Australia being $4139 a year. MICK TSIKAS

Get around health fund price hike

WE LIKE to think our loyalty as a customer will lead to earning discounts or rewards but that's not always the case.

When it comes to health insurance, it could just end up costing you more.

For the past seven years, private health cover premiums have risen on April 1 and this year the cost is set to climb by an average of 4.84%.

It's a sting to the hip pocket that no fund member relishes. Yet surprisingly few people switch between heath funds to save on premiums.

Analysis by comparison site Finder shows the average adult stays with the same health fund for 12 years. But that loyalty hasn't resulted in any real financial reward.

Finder also found that of the big four health funds, NIB's premiums have increased by 48.7% since 2010, HCF 46.6%, Medibank 45.3%, and Bupa 43.7%.

These solid price hikes mean private health cover is not cheap. The average cost of hospital and extras cover in Australia is $4139 a year.

Affording annual increases in the premiums can be difficult but there are ways to trim the cost without compromising your cover.

With dozens of private health funds to choose from, it makes sense to shop around as premiums vary significantly.

Independent comparison website privatehealth.gov.au makes it easy to see which fund has the most affordable cover for your needs.

It's also worth taking a look at whether you are eligible to join a restricted membership fund. These lower-cost funds are open for people working in particular industries, including defence, transport, teaching and health.

Switching to a different health fund shouldn't mean re-serving a waiting period as long as you transfer to a policy with the same or a lower level of cover.

It's only if your new health plan includes new or higher benefits that you will have to wait for those benefits to kick in.

If you're happy with your current fund it's possible to save on health cover by paying a year's worth of premiums upfront before March 31. It's a big amount, I know, but it can mean getting another year of cover at the old price.

The main point is to explore ways to save on private health cover, especially if it means the difference between bailing out of the system altogether or staying insured.



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