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How to find health insurance relief during the coronavirus outbreak

From price freezes and payment deferrals, to better cover at no extra cost. Here's how health funds are helping.

Updated

Fact checked

If your finances have been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak or you're struggling to keep up with your health insurance payments, many health insurers are stepping up to help. Many are offering payment extensions, membership suspension and more.

Will health insurers let me suspend my membership?

Yes. However, you generally need to let your insurer know that you want to suspend your membership or defer payment at least 14 days prior to the due date. Otherwise you'll still be charged. This will differ depending on the health insurer you're with.

Caveats often apply. You usually can't suspend your account for longer than 2 years, or less than 2 weeks. Keep in mind that when your health insurance policy is suspended, you're not covered to make claims for any rebates or benefits from your insurer.

To find out exactly what your insurer can do, we've put together a list of how some of the main providers are helping, including now providing Telehealth services and cover for coronavirus related illnesses. Their contact details and membership suspension applications are also available below.

InsurerHow they're helpingContact information
ACAAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Membership suspension due to financial hardship

Membership Suspension Application
AAMIAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Membership suspension due to financial hardship

Coverage has been expanded for chest, lung, kidney or other treatment related to COVID-19 across all levels of Hospital cover at no additional cost.

13 22 44
ahmAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Has announced a $50M+ joint support package with Medibank which includes:

  • Allowing members to suspend policies or access relief on premiums
  • Paying benefits towards chest, heart, lung and kidney hospital admissions related to the coronavirus, regardless of cover level
  • Additional clinical support systems for customers with coronavirus who are in self-isolation, as well as customers with chronic and complex health conditions
  • 24/7 Medibank nurse and phone lines for mental health support

ahm will also pay benefits towards chest, heart, lung and kidney hospital admissions regardless of your existing level of hospital cover. This includes those related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and will apply until the crisis passes (standard waiting periods apply).

Call 134 246 Monday to Friday
ApiaAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Membership suspension due to financial hardship

The Policyholder must inform Apia at least 7 working days before the next due date to defer a payment.

Call 1800 274 213
Australian UnityAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Membership suspension due to financial hardship

Australian Unity members will be covered for the following hospital admissions, irrespective of your level of cover, if the admission relates to COVID-19: Lung and Chest. Heart and Vascular System and Kidney and Bladder.

Where appropriate, you can now claim benefits for telehealth consultations on your Extras cover for Physiotherapy, Psychology, Exercise Physiology, Occupational Therapy, Speech Pathology, Dietetics and Nutrition (conditions apply).

1300 654 587 (Australia-wide)

+613 8682 7000 (from Overseas)

BupaAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Has announced a $50 million assistance package for those suffering hardship, confirming all customers with a hospital policy are covered for COVID-19 related claims, irrespective of the terms of their policy.

You may request to cancel or alter debit drawing arrangements by contacting Bupa and providing at least five working days notice of any requested changes.

Membership suspension due to financial hardship

Private patient admissions for Lung and Chest conditions, including COVID-19 related treatment, are included on all hospital policies from 26 March 2020. Telehealth is available with Extras services including psychology, counselling, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, exercise physiology and dietetics until 30 June 2020.

Application to suspend membership

Call 134 135

CBHSAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Membership suspension due to financial hardship

Call 1300 654 123
Defence HealthAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Membership suspension due to financial hardship

Call 1800 335 425
Frank HealthAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Membership suspension due to financial hardship

Frank has introduced ancillary benefits for Telehealth physiotherapy and psychology services. Telehealth psychology consultation benefits apply from 1 April to 30 September 2020. Telehealth physiotherapy consultation benefits apply from 14 April to 30 September 2020

Call 1300 437 265.
GMHBAAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Membership suspension due to financial hardship

All GMHBA members with hospital cover will be covered for COVID-19 related hospitalisations, regardless of their level of cover.

GMHBA has introduced new ancillary benefits for Telehealth physiotherapy and psychology services.

If you're experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19, eligible members have the option to suspend their cover for up to 12 months.

If you have both hospital and extras cover, you can suspend the extras component of your cover and maintain your existing hospital cover. (this does not include package products).

Waiving the minimum policy suspension period so you can reactivate your cover any time you need to.

Call 1300 481 494.
GUHealthAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

You may request to cancel or alter the debit drawing arrangements by contacting GUHealth and providing at least five working days notice of any requested changes

Membership suspension due to financial hardship

Cover for chest, lung, kidney or other treatment related to COVID-19 available across all levels of Hospital cover at no additional cost.

Direct Debit request form.
HBFAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 12 months

Membership suspension if you are overseas

Temporary benefits for certain Psychology and Clinical Psychology treatments when delivered via phone or video channels.

Conditions for suspension
HCFAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Request deferment of your contributions, you must notify HCF by phone or fax no later than 2 business days prior to your next debit date

Membership suspension due to financial hardship

HCF will pay your premiums for up to 6 months and you'll still be covered during that time, if you have HCF cover and have become unemployed, through no fault of your own.

Conditions for suspension

Call 13 13 34

Healthcare InsuranceAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Membership suspension due to financial hardship

Call 1300 113 113.
Health PartnersAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Membership suspension due to financial hardship

1800 804 950.
health.com.auAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Membership suspension due to financial hardship

Existing customers with hospital cover will be covered for all COVID-19 related hospital treatments as a private patient, as long as you have served your initial two-month waiting periods.

Telehealth psychology consultation benefits apply from 1 April to 30 September 2020.

Telehealth physiotherapy consultation benefits apply from 14 April to 30 September 2020.

Contact online
HIFAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Membership suspension due to financial hardship

Suspend membership
MedibankAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Has announced a $50M+ joint support package which includes:

  • Allowing members to suspend policies or access relief on premiums
  • Paying benefits towards chest, heart, lung and kidney hospital admissions related to the coronavirus, regardless of cover level
  • Additional clinical support systems for customers with coronavirus who are in self-isolation, as well as customers with chronic and complex health conditions
  • 24/7 Medibank nurse and phone lines for mental health support
  • Telehealth services for psychology, physiotherapy, dietetics, occupational therapy, podiatry, exercise physiology, and speech therapy available between 14 April and 30 September 2020.
Call 132 331
nibAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Expanded coverage for chest, lung, kidney and bladder or other treatment related to COVID-19 across all levels of hospital cover at no additional cost, until the crisis passes.

Existing members who are experiencing financial hardship can access special premium relief.

Existing members who are experiencing financial hardship can suspend their health insurance policy and premium payment for up to six months while remaining covered for COVID-19 related treatment.

You can change the debit arrangements in line with the terms and conditions of your nib policy. You must inform them at least 7 working days before the next due date for deferring a payment.

Telehealth services for physiotherapy, dietetics, psychology, speech therapy and occupational therapy are temporarily available.

Direct debit request and claims benefit form
SuncorpAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Membership suspension due to financial hardship

Coverage has been expanded for chest, lung, kidney or other treatment related to COVID-19 across all levels of Hospital cover at no additional cost.

13 11 55
Qantas Health Insurance
  • Expanded coverage for chest, lung, kidney and bladder or other treatment related to COVID-19 across all levels of hospital cover (including Basic and Bronze where currently excluded) at no additional cost.

  • Ability for existing members who are experiencing financial hardship to access special premium relief.

  • Existing members experiencing financial hardship can suspend their health insurance policy and premium payment for up to six months while remaining covered for COVID-19 related treatment. For coverage for other treatments or services, you will need to resume your cover.

13 49 60
WestfundAnnual premium increase, due on 1 April, has been postponed by 6 months

Membership suspension due to financial hardship

1300 937 838

Can I defer my health insurance premiums?

Some insurers will allow you to defer your health insurance payments if you are not able to pay your premium. To find out if you can delay your health insurance payments, you can:

  • Contact your health fund. Even if there's nothing on your health insurer's website about financial help, it's worth calling them and letting them know you won't be able to pay your premium. Many assess on a claim-by-claim basis and might be able to help you.
  • Let them know you can't pay well in advance. Many will let you defer payment. However, you need to let them know well in advance. Most providers stipulate that you need to tell them 14 days before payment is due. Otherwise, you risk losing your coverage or being charged.
  • Take note of when you need to pay. If you are able to defer payment, be sure you write down the date the new payment is due so you don't forget. If you don't pay, it might lead to you losing your health insurance coverage.

And if your health insurer isn't offering any financial assistance?

While most of the big health insurers let you suspend your coverage, there are some who might not offer help. That doesn't mean you're out of options. There are a few steps you can take to ease your financial worries.

  • Switch providers. If coronavirus has affected your income, or you're simply looking to cut your expenses a little in the current climate, you might be able to find a cheaper health insurance provider. You can compare policies side-by-side to see who is providing the kind of care you want.
  • Downgrade your coverage. Maybe you only want hospital cover, or simply want to beat the Medicare levy with a basic policy. Either way, there are plenty of affordable options available that might be better for you.
  • Cancel your policy. If you can't afford to pay your current policy, Australia's public healthcare system has your back. You can cancel your private health cover and still be covered by Medicare.

What happens if I don't pay my health insurance premiums?

If you don't keep up-to-date with your policy payments, your membership will fall into arrears and no benefits will be paid to you or anyone else included in your policy. In most cases, your policy will be cancelled by Police Health if you don't pay your premiums for more than two months.

Falling behind on your payments means you won't be covered for the cost of hospital or extras treatment you receive. If your health fund does cancel your policy because you aren't paying your premiums, you might need to re-serve waiting periods if you do eventually rejoin. To ensure this doesn't happen, be sure to contact your provider before missing a payment and suspend or defer your cover.

Changes to elective surgery

As of Wednesday 25 March 2020, all non-urgent elective surgeries in Public Hospitals were suspended, with Private Hospitals doing the same on 1 April 2020. These include:

  • Total hip replacement
  • Total knee replacement
  • Shoulder reconstruction
  • Removing tonsils
  • Removing haemorrhoids
  • Laparoscopy for endometriosis
  • Breast reconstruction
  • Breast reduction
  • Varicose veins treatment
  • Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction

Please note, emergency surgeries will not be affected by this announcement. If you had non-urgent elective surgery planned, your health provider will be in touch with you about rescheduling. If they have not been in contact with you yet, you should call them (contact details provided in table) to see how the changes may affect your surgery.

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