What's the best health cover for singles? Find out what you need to know to help you find the right cover.
Private health insurance is seen by many young singles as something for later in life. But singles are not one size fits all. Whether you're a young single, an older single or a single parent, you need to compare your singles health insurance options and make sure you are getting the right cover for your situation. This guide looks at how to find the best health insurance for singles*, traps to avoid, whether or not you'll be covered by your parents' healths insurance policy and the incentives and penalties associated with health funds for singles.
Compare singles health insurance side-by-side and get covered
The kind of singles health cover you will need will depend on your general health, your lifestyle, your income and your personal preferences. Many singles take out basic hospital cover to avoid the Medicare Levy Surcharge and Lifetime Health Cover loading and also as a safety net to receive private patient care in a public hospital should they need it. They often combine this with a higher level of extras cover, as this provides them with a more immediate return on investment by helping to cover the costs of optical dental and physio, which are not covered by Medicare. Other factors that influence the type and level of cover you take out as a single can include:
- Whether you play contact sports or extreme sports such as skiing or parasailing, in which case your risk of injury would be higher
- Whether you have a physical condition such as poor eyesight or bad teeth, in which case ancillary (extras) cover would be more valuable to you
- Whether you are a full-time student under 25, in which case you may already be covered under your parents’ health insurance
What should you look for to find the best health insurance for singles?
The best health insurance for singles is the policy that meets your needs. Everyone is different and what is best for you may not be for someone else, even though you’re both single. However, there are some general features that all good singles health insurance policies should have. They should all:
- Have few exclusions and low or no gaps between what Medicare covers and what your health fund pays
- Have minimum waiting periods or waived altogether in the case of some extras
- Have added value in the form of discounts and incentives
- Be issued by an insurer with low management expenses, a good industry rating and claims record, high retention rates and few complaints
But as well as the obvious reasons, there are some other incentives for taking out private health that some singles may not be aware of. Benefits of getting the best health insurance for singles, early include:
- Lifetime Health Cover loading. This is a 2% loading for every year you don’t have private hospital cover after turning 31. If you take out cover before then, you will pay less for your health insurance for life.
- Medicare Levy Surcharge. If you are a single earning over $90,000 pa, the government will charge you an extra 1% in tax if you don’t have hospital cover, 1.25% if you earn over $105,000 pa and 1.5% over $140,000 pa. The MLS levels applicable from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017 are:
Singles ≤$90,000 $90,001-105,000 $105,001-140,000 ≥$140,001 All ages 0.0% 1.0% 1.25% 1.5% Families ≤$180,000 $180,001-210,000 $210,001-280,000 ≥$280,001 All ages 0.0% 1.0% 1.25% 1.5%
- Government rebate. If you earn less than the threshold amount, you will receive a rebate for having private cover, either in the form of a premium discount from your insurer or as a tax rebate. The rebate levels applicable from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017 are:
Singles ≤$90,000 $90,001-105,000 $105,001-140,000 ≥$140,001 < Age 65 26.791% 17.861% 8.930% 0% Age 65-69 31.256% 22.326% 13.395% 0% Age 70+ 35.722% 26.791% 17.861% 0% Families ≤$180,000 $180,001-210,000 $210,001-280,000 ≥$280,001 < Age 65 26.791% 17.861% 8.930% 0% Age 65-69 31.256% 22.326% 13.395% 0% Age 70+ 35.722% 26.791% 17.861% 0%
How can young singles benefit from cover?
According to the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, in 2014-15, 1,031,769 young Australians between 15 and 24 years of age ended up in hospital emergency departments. 25-34 year olds were the next demographic most likely to visit the emergency department, with 1,014,174 people from this age bracket treated during the same period. With this in mind, the best health insurance for young people covers you for hospital treatment and accommodation following an accident, as well as emergency ambulance transport. As a young, healthy single person, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that singles health insurance is for when you get older and that you have better things to spend your money on. However, there are a number of good reasons why you should take out private health cover now and find the best health insurance for young singles. The main advantages of private funds over the public system are that:
- You get to be treated by your own doctor
- You get a private room in hospital
- You don’t have to join a long queue for elective surgery
You can also get money back on extras that you use regularly such as dental, optical, physio, remedial massage and lifestyle services such as gym memberships.
What about cover for single parents?
If you are a single parent, getting cheap cover is no longer such a problem. Prior to 2007 in Australia, single parents paid the same amount for their health insurance as couples with children, which was often cost-prohibitive on one income. But thanks to amendments to the legislation in 2007, single parents now pay less than two parent families for private health cover (up to 25% less in some cases). When deciding what level of cover you need for your family, you need to look at your child's current needs and try and predict what those needs will be as they grow. Areas where cover may be especially appropriate could include:
- Dental. General dental cover, which covers regular check ups, X-rays, fillings and preventative procedures, may be adequate for their years prior to age nine. Any potential orthodontic problems requiring braces or plates have usually been diagnosed by this age, so it is around this time that major dental cover may be needed.
- Optical. If your kids show signs of developing eyesight problems, optical cover would be useful, as glasses and contact lenses are not covered by Medicare.
- Podiatry. If a child is pigeon-toed, has flat feet or isn’t walking by the age of two, having podiatry cover may be useful to help pay for necessary corrective treatments.
As a parent, you know which benefits are more appropriate for your children and by shopping around, you can find the right policy or tailor one to suit their particular needs.
How does my age affect my health insurance?
People have different needs for health insurance at different stages of their lives.
- Young singles. When you’re young and healthy, you often don’t see the need for health insurance. But while you may be able to opt for extras-only cover, if you play sports or lead an active lifestyle, you should still have basic hospital cover to avoid elective surgery waiting lists.
- 30-somethings. If you’re newly married and have kids, you need private health insurance to protect your family. You also need it before your 31st birthday to avoid the Lifetime Health Cover loading.
- The middle aged. As your family grows up and leaves home, your health insurance needs will change. This is the time of life when you would cut back on things like pregnancy cover and add cover you are more likely to need such as comprehensive hospital cover.
- Retirees. If you’re on a pension, you might be tempted to reduce your level of health cover in your later years or even drop it altogether. But there are two good reasons for not doing this. First, people over 65 receive a bigger government rebate on their health insurance. Second, if you ever want private cover again, you will be subject to the Lifetime Health Cover loading (you can only let you policy lapse for three years).
Got any tips for getting a better deal on health cover?
The following are some useful tips for finding the best health insurance for singles:
- Don't be afraid to switch. If you find a better policy with another insurer, don’t be afraid to switch, as your benefits and current status are transferred with you to your new provider
- Know what the excess is. Avoid policies that have both an excess and a co-payment, or you could be made to pay a lump sum on admission to hospital and then a further sum for every day you’re there
- Know what the gap is. Make sure your insurance provider has agreements with your preferred doctor and hospital to avoid having to pay a gap.
- Don’t choose on price alone. With health insurance for singles, you generally get the cover you pay for, so if it’s noticeably cheaper than other policies, chances are it doesn’t cover you to the same extent.
- Read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS). This is the fine print that sets out the extent of coverage, the terms and conditions and any exclusions that apply. If you don’t read the fine print, you may get a nasty surprise later on if you ever need to make a claim.
- Review your policy on a regular basis. What was good coverage six months ago may not be what you need now. Circumstances change and so do insurance products and there may be a better deal out there that you won’t know about unless you look.
Does health insurance cover ambulance?
In most states, Medicare doesn't cover the cost of ambulance transportation in the case of an emergency. Residents of states such as Queensland and Tasmania receive automatic cover for the cost of ambulance services. Those with Pensioner Concession Card or Healthcare Card holders in Victoria can receive free ambulance services.
Are you turning from a Me to a We?
If your single status changes, as it no doubt will at some stage in your life, the natural thing to do is to take out couples health insurance with your partner. This has advantages and disadvantages, but the pros outweigh the cons in most cases. The main advantage of couples insurance is that it will be cheaper, simply because you will now have one premium to pay rather than two. And if you select a policy with a combined annual limit, you and your partner can choose which services to include, depending on each of your needs.
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Picture: Shutterstock * The offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of products finder.com.au has access to track details from and is not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of terms 'Best' and 'Top' are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your personal financial circumstances when comparing products.