Workplace Mental Health

The Ultimate Guide to purchasing personal health insurance

Having trouble with getting your first personal health care insurance plan? Read this article to find out all you need to know on how to choose from the multitude of health insurance companies wanting to work with you to meet your needs.

It all seems a bit overwhelming!

Asking somebody to compare health insurance is so broad, knowing every one of them is virtually impossible. However, by being regimental, organised, and selective, health insurance comparison can become a manageable task and, we shouldn’t forget, an important decision to make. The key here is to take your time, with your best interests at heart, and to not commit to the first offer you see. Talk it out with people you can trust, negotiate well with the company consultants, and above all, only commit when you are very sure you are good to go.

Do I even need private health insurance?

You have access to Medicare, simple as that, so if you are happy with Medicare’s service, you are OK as you are. However, Medicare has its limitations, and, naturally, can be overcrowded in a notoriously stretched service. Some people purchase private health insurance because they want more control over their health care, more choice about the services they use, and preference of doctor. They believe that private health insurance gives them extra benefits, including shorter waiting times, selective appointment-making, and better quality of care. Though, another reason Australians commonly take out private health insurance is to avoid financial penalties.

Australia’s tax system encourages high-income earners to take out private health insurance as well as paying the 2% levy to help fund Medicare and the National Disability Insurance Scheme. If they do not take out private health insurance, they pay a tax penalty called the Medicare Levy Surcharge. After the age of 30, for each year an individual delays in taking out private health insurance, the levy increases by 2% - surely enough inspiration to get on board with a private health plan.

So, should I go public or private?

A private health compare model with the public health care model is a big topic for debate, and it’s up to each individual, so is forever inconclusive. There are cases where people with private health care still use public services. This can be for a number of reasons, including the convenient locations of hospitals and medical centres, or minor operations with a low waiting time, for example.

However, this can lead to an ambiguity of service. Some people expect a private health care service in a public health care space, which is misleading. If you are looking for private service across the board, then it would be best to get private health care and only attend private hospitals, otherwise you could be left disappointed!

If you are a higher earner, private health care makes sense. You have to pay an increased levy anyway, and the service wouldn’t improve for you in the public health care sector. Also, you would be eligible for a government rebate. It must be added, however, that these are means tested. So, dependant on your income, it will affect the amount of rebate you will receive.

I want private health insurance, where do I start?

When asking how to compare health insurance plans, there are so many choices to make based on the specific plan perfect for you, that it may be best to create your own health insurance comparison spreadsheet. It may sound a basic and almost obvious approach to take, but it will be far more convenient having a spreadsheet as a health fund comparison method. A bunch of tabs on your laptop can cause you to easily lose your place, but having all the options presented to you on one manageable and editable sheet will offer you a smoother comparison experience.

Any other tools you recommend?

Yes! There’s a lot of maths involved with comparing health funds, so it is valuable to have a tool to help with this task. Compare health insurance plans calculator tools are perfect to assist you in giving a health funds comparison from a financial perspective, so it would be wise to have one handy. These can be found online through a ‘compare the market health insurance’ type platform. It really does well at putting everything in basic Lehman’s terms.

Comparison websites are a great way of having all your prospective options listed on a site to categorise the main pain points in your decision making. You may be asked to fill in a few simple details aimed at giving you a more refined list of search results based on your needs. When accessing your information, be ready with:

- Your gender and the number of people you are looking to claim for (yourself, a couple, family etc)
- Your postcode or suburb
- Your main priority for searching for private healthcare at this time (for example, minimal premium to reduce tax, your pre-paid cover is about to expire, planning on having children, looking for something cheaper, looking for better cover, have a specific health concern, an overseas visitor looking for cover, that you just want to compare, or many other reasons)
- You date of birth and your current cover status
- Your income
- Your government rebate situation – The Australian Government Rebate can reduce the upfront cost of your cover. The rebate you select will be automatically applied to the quoted amount, but this is something that will be covered later on in the article.

From this, you will be offered the key attributes of each deal once the algorithm has worked its magic. You should receive information on each deal comprising:

- The name of the company and its logo to easily recognise and differentiate
- The monthly rate
- The cost of the Lifetime Health Cover (LHC)
- The type of hospital cover to compare hospital cover
- A link to the policy brochure
- Your maximum excess rates
- The chance to compare ambulance cover or whether the plan provides ambulance cover at all
- A more info tab – you can compare health insurance quotes in even more detail on each deal. This can include details on hospital cover information, a more defined summary of the policy, and the benefits which are excluded. These can be varied, and certainly something to keep in mind if you have a particular condition you wish to be covered. Exclusions can range from heart surgery, dialysis, major eye surgery, hip and knee joint replacement, sterility reversals, surgical weight loss procedures, among others.

What should I look out for when searching?

A Google search is the natural way to begin, but you must be aware that public health insurance compared with private health insurance companies is going to spit out different kinds of results. This means that you need to take a step back and look at what type of health insurance best suits you, and from that, getting the best health insurance Australia has to offer.

There are different types of health insurance?

Absolutely! People’s primary concerns and living situations vary, so there are many different health insurance plans to suit each individual. Below is a breakdown of some of the variations so you can compare health fund options which speak to your particular niche:

  • Private health insurance – When you compare private health insurance with public health insurance, it can be an ambiguous exploration. As you would most probably be aware, Medicare is the main public health care system in Australia. But Medicare can appear deceptive, and certainly not as ‘free’ as it purports to be. So, it begs the question, which service is better for its value? Private insurance may entail a monthly cost, but a health insurance no waiting period is one of the key reasons you would be happy to incur a fee – a key difference in the public and private health insurance models.
  • Health insurance for self employed – It is possible that your job is the influencer in your choice of health insurance. Being your own manager can be great. You answer to no one, can roll out of bed whenever you like, and work through whatever hours you wish. Though, there are negatives. People who work for companies get the standard health care package, but those who are self-employed do not. You may feel invincible now as a self-employed high-flier, but your health can be hit hard at any point. You need to find a policy which protects yourself, your family and your business. Even for the self-employed, you can compare health funds depending on what you are looking for. These can range from life insurance, personal accidents, disability cover, trauma insurance, among others.
  • Individual health insurance – there are varied types of health insurance based on the number of people you need to think about. This can be family health insurance, couple health insurance, or even individual health insurance.
Why should I listen to you?

You don’t have to! Another way of finding out the best way to get a frank health insurance review is to check out…the reviews! When looking to buy items online, looking at the reviews is a great way of getting an understanding in how well the product has been received from unbiased users with no agenda. Many companies now have a social media presence, making them more approachable and communicative with their current and prospective customers. It is on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter that you can check out the direct interactions of current customers with the health insurance company of your choice.

Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful marketing tools, so by visiting customer reviews, it really is a great way to get the inside lane on how the customer feels about the health insurance company and the way they treat their customers.

Another way to get under a company’s finger nails is to ask your friends which health insurance provider they have, and it may be one you are considering. Ask them what plan they are on and how it’s going – this could be a quick way to answer all the questions you have.

If you are getting a family cover plan, talk out the options with your spouse. It concerns them too, so they’ll care very much about what provider is best to go with. Sharing thoughts and ideas can also create further suggestions and considerations which may not have crossed your mind when looking alone.

Do you have any specific providers you would recommend to take a look at?

Peoplecare health insurance aims to give more for less, claims to give as personal a service as possible, turnaround a quick claim, and purports to promise a quick switch if you are coming over from a competitor. Even if you’ve already got health insurance, it’s worth calling them to see if they can get you a better deal. They claim to make it very easy to switch, and if you do come over from another health fund, you’ll be continuously covered and won’t have waiting periods for anything that you are already covered for.

Following up on the earlier mention of health insurance comparison sites, iSelect health insurance is a great place to enter your vital information to list private health insurance Australia deals. iSelect health insurance is aware that most people find insurance, utilities and personal finance boring, so they know the importance of getting the searching stage of the process correct the first time. They aim to take care of the boring but important stuff.

They offer a service they are proud of to millions of Australians who seek expert advice each year on some of life’s most important purchase decisions.

iSelect health insurance isn’t just another online comparison website, as it offers a service past the initial stage of comparing private health insurance. Comparing online is just the first step in the personalised comparison and expert advisory service. They have an over the phone service too, which provides customers a far more detailed conversation with their highly trained expert advisers.

Should I commit to a purchase once I have compared?

This may be a bit eager, don’t jump into it just yet. Going from private health insurance comparison sites and straight into a purchase jumps a milestone step in the purchasing journey. From your list of potential companies, make some calls to these directly and have a discussion about what you have found so far, and how the company can add value on top of the plan you are trying to find. Don’t forget that this is a competitive market, so by being transparent about the other plans available to you on your shortlist may open up the opportunity for them to try and improve their own plan to beat their competitors. Don’t be shy here, ask how they can create a plan best suited to your needs in comparison to the other companies you like. And once you have had that conversation, call the next company on your shortlist and do the same thing. Once you’ve had these phone conversations and are still unsure, chat it out with someone you can trust. If you are looking to buy health insurance on your own, find out which friends may be using the same health insurance company as yourself. This way, your discussion can hark back to the point made previously about word of mouth recommendations – the best kind of insight you can get.

Another vital person to share this information with – though this will not apply to everyone – is another adult looking to be on the same plan as yourself, namely your spouse. Speak to them about the options, see if they come up with any holes in your research or companies you may have overlooked with similarly great plans on offer.

Before I leave…

Private health insurance is a wise choice, particularly if you are a higher income earner. You are going to be levied for public health care anyway, so encourages you to make the move over. Moreover, there are so many ways to compare health insurance Australia based, that it would be tough to miss the best plans for you. You should have the confidence that with this vast number of companies knocking at the door to get you on board, you can negotiate a deal to suit the plan best for you, you and your partner, or even your whole family, if relevant.

Lastly, once you commit, even after all this research, all this chatting with someone you can trust, all these phone conversations with each company’s consultant, you never know, it may still not be what you are looking for. But when you get there, do be sure to read your contract before signing it. A lot of the contracts would have you committing to a year, or maybe even longer. Your worst possible situation is wanting to pull out of a contract but realise you are legally bound for 12 months of payments. Negotiate a way to break the contract if ever you need to, just to be on the safe side. For these kind of commitments, it really is a case of having to read the small print to get the best individual health insurance possible!