At the start of this month, the Australian government pushed ahead with the annual rise in premiums for health insurance policyholders.
Announced in March, health insurance premiums have risen by an average of 6.18 per cent. However, this has varied depending on the health fund and product in question. The actual premium rise for an individual has been anywhere between 3.98 and 6.99 per cent.
Experts advised prior to the increase that anyone worried about this extra expense could pay ahead on their health insurance policies, which would effectively mean they pay the 2014 premium for the next 12 months.
However, the cut off date for organising this was April 1 – the date the new premiums came into effect.
Anyone who missed this deadline and is concerned about the new price of their health insurance will still have avenues open to them to manage the cost.
Why have my health insurance premiums risen?
The inflation of health insurance premiums is a result of increasing bills to health funds.
Insurers are generally paying more, thanks to the inflation of the cost of medical services, the proliferation of new technologies, and an ageing population changing the costs associated with healthcare.
Should I have known about it?
Your health fund should have sent you a letter last month. In this, the price changes affecting your individual or family health insurance policy will be detailed.
If you have not received a letter with this information, or if you would like to discuss the specific changes affecting your policy, you should contact your health fund.
How can I lower my premiums?
If you are unhappy with the new cost of your health insurance, or if you simply would like to look into lowering your premiums as a matter of interest, there are a number of routes open to you.
Find the competitive advantage
The first option is to compare health insurance providers and find a more competitive deal.
This was the advice of Health Minister Sussan Ley when she announced the extent of the premium rise last month.
"With over 30 private health funds now operating in the Australian market, my strong advice to consumers is shop around to get the best deal," she explained.
Pick and mix
Not all health insurance products are priced identically. Much like how your local supermarkets will sell apples for different prices, health funds have varied price tags on their individual cover options.
However, while your favourite supermarket may sell the cheapest and best apples, their oranges may not be up to the same standard.
Not everyone knows that a policyholder can mix their health insurance providers, but it can often be one of the most effective ways of cutting down your monthly premium rate.
Refine your policy
Life moves pretty fast, and you can soon find that you have gone months or even years without appraising your health insurance policy.
Not only does this leave you at risk of not receiving the benefits entitled to you, you could also be paying for parts of your policy that are redundant.
A common example is maternity cover; a new family may still be paying for the product once they have already brought a new addition into their homes.
Refining your policy means you are only paying for the things you are likely to make a claim on.
Speak with your health insurance broker
Your health insurance broker has the skills, knowledge and network to make sure you are getting all the benefits of your policy. What's more, they are well versed in the many ways to cut down your premium costs without making destructive changes to your policy.
After all, you will want your health cover to be of high quality, not just cost effective.
Remember, even if you missed the April 1 deadline, it's not too late to improve your level of cover. Call HICA on 1300 44 22 01 and discuss your options with a specialist today.