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This is a sponsored guest post written by Sophie Ryan, iSelect Comparison Expert

Vegemite, Tims Tams, meat pies … you name it, us Aussies have plenty to share! Part of navigating life in a different country is embracing the local cuisine. We’ve got some entertaining traditions too! Think backyard sausage sizzles, cheering on the AFL, and long days spent at the beach. OK, before this starts reading like a postcard, it’s not all fun and food. We do have our fair share of the more mundane stuff. Thankfully, I can break down one of those tedious topics for you – private health insurance.

Just visiting or settling down?

Firstly, let me lay down some basics about the Australian healthcare system. If you’re not already aware, Australia has a universal health insurance scheme, known as Medicare. If you’re an overseas visitor to this beautiful country, you may qualify for access to this scheme via Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) and be entitled to claim for a limited range of healthcare benefits during your stay.[1]

Whether that’s the case for you or not, it could still be a good idea to take out a medical insurance policy, commonly called ‘Overseas Visitors Health Insurance’. This kind of policy could give you extra peace of mind knowing you’re reducing your risk of having to fork out the full cost of medical expenses if you needed treatment here.

It’s a little more complex if you’re a recent migrant to Australia with permanent residency. That’s because you can take out a private health insurance policy available to Australian citizens, which means you can choose your level of cover based on your health needs, and purchase ‘extras’ cover for things like optical and dental expenses[2].

Finding suitable cover and what’s new in 2024

With many options when it comes to private health insurance as a permanent resident, it can be a bit overwhelming. Cover can also be quite costly. Recent research from comparison service iSelect found that only a third of Australians can easily afford private health insurance.[3]

iSelect General Manager – Health, Andres Gutierrez, explained that whether you already hold a policy, or are thinking about taking one out, it’s important to remember that the cost will typically increase annually.

“Many health funds only recently implemented the price rise for 2024 on April 1, which was an average increase of 3.03 per cent across the industry,[4]” Andres said.

“While funds are required to let their members know when the cost of their policy is going up, many people just accept it and take no action, or mistakenly think that loyalty pays. That’s not always the case when it comes to health insurance.”

You can switch your health insurance over to a new provider at any time, which is why regularly comparing policies and providers is key to making sure you’re not paying more than you need to be for cover. The study from iSelect found that 75 per cent of policyholders surveyed who switched their health plan and/or provider within the last two years saved money.2

Another reason to consider reviewing your cover (or taking it out for the first time) is the Medicare Levy Surcharge. This is charged to Australian taxpayers who don’t hold an appropriate level of private hospital cover and earn over an amount set by the government. The more taxable Australian income you earn, the more Medicare Levy Surcharge you may have to pay. While they don’t always change annually, this year, the income thresholds will increase on July 1, 2024.[5] So, if you’re unsure whether this could apply to you, now is the time to find out!

Still confused? That’s OK, because a comparison service such as iSelect can help. Whether you already have a policy and want to see if there’s a better deal out there, or you’re looking to take out cover for the first time, iSelect’s Health Comparison Experts can compare their range of funds and policies and take care of the switching or sign-up process for you.

iSelect Disclaimer  

*iSelect does not compare all products in the market. The availability of products iSelect compare may change from time to time. Not all products made available from iSelect’s providers are compared by iSelect and due to commercial arrangements, area or availability, not all products compared by iSelect will be available to all customers. Some products and special offers may only be available from iSelect’s call centre or website. Click here to view iSelect’s range of providers.

[1]Source: When Reciprocal health care agreements apply and you visit Australia – Reciprocal Health Care Agreements – Services Australia

[2]Source: Adequate health insurance for visa holders (homeaffairs.gov.au)

[3]Source: iSelect commissioned i-Link Research to conduct a national online survey between 15th Feb to 22nd Feb 2024. The sample is n=1,000 Australians 18+ years, with data weighted to represent the population by age, state and gender, and is representative of all Australian adults 18+

[4]Source: Private health insurance premiums rise less than wages, pensions and inflation | Health Portfolio Ministers | Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care

[5]Sources: Paying the Medicare levy surcharge | Australian Taxation Office (ato.gov.au) & Medicare levy surcharge income, thresholds and rates | Australian Taxation Office (ato.gov.au)