In just over two weeks, health insurance premium increases are to commence which will see an average rise of 5.6 per cent for Australians with private health cover.
The new changes will take effect from April 1, with the government encouraging families to "shop around" for the best deal by comparing health insurance policies.
Federal health minister Tanya Plibersek said that the government had worked hard to keep the premium rises for families to a minimum, while also ensuring that insurance companies were able to cover their cost increases.
The countdown is on until the new Australian health insurance rise comes into place so you may want to review your private health insurance plan now to ensure that the plan you have now is covering your family's medical needs and not exceeding your budget.
This cover helps with medical treatment costs such as doctor's charges for hospital treatment services and accommodation, and applies when you receive care from a public or private hospital.
The payment of benefits for other treatments may also be covered depending on what kind of hospital cover you take out.
There are different types of private health insurance hospital cover on offer, with some allowing for full cover and others letting you pay lower premiums but requiring you to meet part of the costs.
The Private Health Insurance Administration Council notes a number of features that you could opt for with your hospital cover.
– Front-end deductible (excess)
This is the amount of money that you agree on paying for a hospital stay before health cover benefits are payable.
If for example, your policy has an excess of $400, you will have to pay the first $400 of your hospital costs if you were to go to hospital as a private patient.
This excess could apply every time that you go to hospital in a year, or it could be capped at a 'total amount' that you will have to pay in a year.
– Exclusion for a particular condition(s)
If your health cover has an exclusion for a particular condition, you are not covered for treatment as a private patient in either a public or private hospital for that condition.
If your policy excluded knee replacements and you needed to go to hospital for this purpose, your health fund would not pay benefits toward your medical or hospital costs.
This feature requires you to pay an "agreed amount" each time a service is provided. A co-payment, for example, may require you to pay $80 for each day's hospital accommodation, meaning you would pay a total of $240 for a three-day hospital stay.
PHIAC states that the total amount of co-payment you pay in a year is often limited to a "set maximum amount".
– Public hospital table
There are some policies that have restricted benefits for all conditions, sometimes referred to as a public hospital table.
Your treatment as a private patient in a public hospital will be covered with this policy, but the PHIAC states that you will face "considerable out-of-pocket costs" if you were to have treatment in a private hospital.
– Benefit limitation period
Having this feature means that you are only entitled to limited benefits for a particular treatment or condition for a "set period of time".
Once that time period has passed you will be entitled to full benefits for that treatment or condition.
Some of these benefit limitation periods may start after standard waiting periods have been served.