By Stuart Fagg, ninemsn Money
Australian health insurance customers bracing for a five percent rise in premiums from next month, have been advised to shop around.
While Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said scrutiny from her department had limited the rise to 4.99 percent, it remains above the 4.8 percent rise in net hospital and medical services.
It also comes on the back of a 4.52 percent rise in premiums last year.
Although the price increase is lower that in some previous years (from 2003-2005 premiums increased by more than seven percent annually) it is a further financial blow to families already reeling from recent interest rate rises, rising grocery costs and an expected surge in petrol prices.
''In the case of health insurance, there are many different and complex policy combinations on offer across Australia,'' said Joanne Whyte from iSelect, an online health insurance comparison service. ''So finding the right cover at the right price can be extremely confusing and time consuming.''
She added that some of the 10 million Australians that have private health insurance may be paying more than necessary. ''Some consumers may pay a higher premium than they need to just because they don't have time to trawl through the web of policy options,'' she said. ''And others may be on a policy that simply does not provide the right cover for their current circumstances or location.''
While Treasurer Wayne Swan's advice that mortgage holders unhappy with their banks raising interest rates above the Reserve Bank's moves should ''vote with their feet'' was met with derision over the excess fees and red tape involved, switching health insurance providers is relatively easy.
Many policy holders review their cover as their circumstances change and switching between funds that offer a similar level of cover means that waiting periods are often waived.
Health insurance hints
- Match the policy to your needs
Look at your family history and stage of life, and don't pay for what you don't want. For example, if you're young you may not need hip replacement. If you're retired, chances are you won't want pregnancy cover.
- Give your current insurance cover a health check
There are a great range of health covers out there, so don't be afraid to change funds. You generally will not have to re-serve waiting periods if you change funds for similar levels of cover.
- Review your extras cover
What you'll get back on ancillary services such as dentistry, physiotherapy and optical will vary greatly between funds, so make sure that your cover is competitive and suits your needs.
- Use a broker
Brokerage services help take the complexity out of shopping for private health insurance. They help you compare policies, ensuring your get great cover for your individual circumstances.
- Consider mix and matching policies
You don't need to have both hospital and extras cover with the same insurer. Pick and choose the policies and funds that best suit your needs.
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