Shine disappears from Gold hospital cover

Patient and nurse at hospital admissions. | Newsreel
Consumers are being urged re-consider top-level hospital insurance due to soaring premiums. | Photo: Dolgachov (iStock)

Australians are being urged to re-consider top-level hospital cover, as the cost of private health insurance soars.

Consumer group CHOICE has found that while annual average industry-wide price increases in April were just over 3 percent, some premiums for top-level cover rose by 17 percent.

CHOICE health insurance expert Jodi Bird said the group looked  at the prices of over 24,000 policies with hospital cover and found “Gold” policies had the highest premium increases.

“With these sky-high increases, it’s worth taking the time to review your health insurance to ensure you’re only paying for what you need, and that you’re getting it at the best possible price,” Ms Bird said.

“Gold hospital cover has become too expensive. If you have a specific condition that’s usually only covered by gold, and you want to use the private hospital system, look for a silver plus policy, or consider self-insurance.

“Instead of paying an insurer, you save money yourself to pay for private health costs as they arise. If you don’t need any health treatment, your savings will grow,” Ms Bird.

“We have found that in some cases, opting to self-fund your health care can be the better-value option.

“Cataract surgery, for example, is one of the most common surgical procedures in Australia, but is often only covered by the most expensive top cover Gold policies.

“We crunched the numbers and found that the annual cost of top-cover health insurance could be more than you would pay for a private cataract procedure out of pocket.”

Ms Bird said this option may only be suitable for people who have few health issues and do not anticipate any unexpected health events.

“And of course, you need to ensure you have the money set aside in case you do require a surgical procedure or treatment in the private system,” she said.

Ms Bird said CHOICE recommended comparing policies to find the best value policy to suit your needs.

“The same cover with a different insurer may save you hundreds of dollars a year. We suggest looking beyond the well-known big funds and consider smaller.”

Ms Bird also urged consumers to also look at their extras cover.

“The value of extras insurance really depends on the individual. It can be worth purchasing, but only if you use it enough that it pays out more than the premiums that are coming out of your pocket,” says Bird.