Millions of Australians across the country with health insurance may now be aware of the changes coming to their policies, with the federal government announcing increases to private health cover premiums from April 2013.
If your health fund has increased its premiums, they are required to notify you in writing. You will then also receive updated policy information which will provide more details on the changes.
The Private Health Insurance Ombudsman (PHIO) states that the average increase in 2013 will be 5.6 per cent, but if your increase is higher it means that your health fund was able to demonstrate that the rise was "necessary to cover the benefits" offered by your policy.
What leads to premium increases?
Benefits paid by health funds can increase when medical, hospital or or other health related costs rise, and if their members have an increased use of health services, the PHIO states.
Some factors which can contribute to these cost rises include the expense of medical equipment and technology, doctors' charges, nurses and hospital staff wages and "costly procedures" available through private hospitals.
Health funds must submit detailed financial information to the minister for health and ageing before they can proceed with increasing premiums, as a requirement of the Private Health Insurance Act 2007.
If sufficient information isn't supplied to the minister that an increase would be necessary, then there is no change to the premium.
When and why should I review my plan?
The changes to your health insurance plan may result in it becoming more expensive than you expected when you first set it up, so it may become necessary to 'shop around' for the best deal.
It's often recommended that people review their plans at least once a year to ensure that the current hospital cover and policies they have are meeting their medical needs.
Changing circumstances can also be another reason to review health cover, with the birth of new babies one indicator that you may need to update your family health insurance policy.
If you or a loved one have a progressive condition, then it's especially important to check over health cover as medical needs can change significantly over time – it's vital that you have a plan that is best suited to your current situation.
Your health fund may also be able to offer you a cheaper alternative to your current health insurance policy, while still meeting your needs – it's just a matter of checking over your policies and seeking better options.
Corporate health insurance
The impending changes may also affect companies with a corporate health or business health insurance plan in place, so it's important to take some steps to ensure your business is getting the best value out of its current policy.
Companies may also want to take into account a number of other factors for reviewing and changing their business health plans, whether they need to extend which employees have access to health cover or if they need to reduce access only to some who meet selected criteria.
Health insurance for individuals and families
Families and individuals all around Australia take out private health insurance for a number of reasons including having increased choice and control of treatment, with patients able to choose their doctor, time of surgery and hospital.
There's also the benefit of being able to avoid public waiting lists for elective surgery, allowing patients to seek treatment in private hospital.
In order to be able to afford and receive these benefits, it's essential for people to review their plans, just in case there's another that can better meet their needs at a cheaper price.
Your health consultant can assist you with a private health insurance comparison so that you can be ready for the premium increases come April 1.