We’re all looking for ways to save money, and if you’re coupled up and have private health insurance, combining policies might be one that’s crossed your mind.
Alix and Adam from Brisbane, both 34, have been together for 10 years with separate policies.
“We looked into getting a joint policy about five years ago, but it was going to be the same price as separate policies so didn’t feel that it was worth making the change,” Alix says.
They’re considering investigating their options again — not just for a possible financial benefit — but also because they believe combining might be easier to manage.
We spoke to health insurance experts and a relationships guru about what you need to consider before making the financial commitment of couples health insurance.
Is your relationship ready?
Before considering a joint policy, Relationships Australia NSW chief executive Elisabeth Shaw recommends discussing your individual motivations for doing so.
She says questions you might cover could include:
- To what degree do you want to be entwined with each other and why?
- Is your picture of a successful relationship caught up in a belief of merging everything?
- Is it too early in the relationship to consider this step?
Ms Shaw says just because something is financially practical, doesn’t mean it’s a fit for you.
This is especially true if there is a power imbalance in the relationship financially.
She recommends seeking separate advice, either from a financial expert, or even a friend or family member you trust to discuss money matters with.
“Unromantic as it sounds, any decision should be tested against: what if this relationship ends? One of us dies? Ensure that it does take into account all possibilities,” Ms Shaw says.
Are there savings?
In most cases, couples policies are just double the price of two single policies, explains CHOICE’s insurance expert Jodi Bird.
But if you are planning on having a family, a joint policy might benefit you financially in the long run.
“It can be useful to think about what policy will be best for your future family needs, such as birth-related cover.
“If you take out a policy now as a couple, serve the necessary waiting periods [usually 12 months], you’ll be covered for pregnancy, and you can then convert it to a family policy when the new family addition arrives.”
Ms Bird says the family policy is usually the same price as a couples policy.
But if kids aren’t on the horizon, and especially if you and your partner have different health needs, two single policies are probably the best way to go, she says.
“For example, if you only want hospital insurance to save on tax, but your partner may require joint reconstruction and glasses, then you could buy a basic hospital policy for yourself, and a higher-level policy for your partner.”
Other questions to ask
Whether you’re looking at joint or single policies, you should consider more than just the cost, says Consumers Health Forum chief executive Leanne Wells.
Things to think about include — which doctors are covered by your plan? Does the insurer have arrangements with facilities that will do the procedure under a no gap or known gap [capped extra fees]? What additional charges are there likely to be for procedures?
“You can also ask about age-based discounts if you are aged between 18 and 29,” Ms Wells says.
[If you’re a high-income earner, and you don’t take out hospital cover, you may need to pay the Medicare Levy Surcharge.]
Ms Bird says if you don’t think you need health insurance for your health, but you’re wondering if it might save you on tax, visit Do I need health insurance?
When comparing policies, both Choice and Consumers Health Forum recommend using an independent, private health comparison website like privatehealth.gov.au.
This is general information only. You should consider obtaining independent professional advice in relation to your particular circumstances.
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