In Australia, health insurance is something the individual (couple or family) funds. Only people lucky enough to work for US based, or international firms, are granted employer sponsored health care. By and large, our public system is pretty good, and many people survive with public health insurance only and live a long and healthy life. However, over the past decade, our government has been creating ‘incentives’ to have private health insurance. When I say ‘incentives’ – I’m not really sure how they’ve sold it to us, cause, really, it’s disincentives!
When you earn over a threshold, you will have a levy added to your tax if you don’t have private health insurance. Therefore, with the minimum health cover, which must include hospital cover, will sometimes be less than the levy you’d get on your taxes. For this reason, myself and many others purchase health insurance. Also, once you’re over 30, every year you don’t (or didn’t) have health insurance increases the cost of your cover. So really, once you’re earning some good coin, or you’re ‘old’ (over 30 :p), you pretty much have health insurance. Now that everyone is on the bandwagon, then there are the premiums.
Thankfully, my employer (who is large, employing 5000-8000 within our state) has negotiated some reductions in premiums at certain health insurance companies. The down side is – it seems that if you buy a product online, the ‘saving’ is added retrospectively. This meant, when I first started with this company, I actually bought MORE than a year’s worth of coverage. Well that seemed all well and good, at the time.
Every April, health funds are welcome to increase their levies. And they do! Every March, they advertise HARD to ‘buy now, and save buying when rates go up’. Therefore, I like to pay my annual premium every March, and delay the cost of higher levies for another year. All this is well and good, provided every year, the premiums come out in March. When you start to get more than a year ahead paid in advance, things start to look a little… uncertain.
What happens when you throw Easter long weekend into the balance?
I saw this coming. I called my health insurer, NIB, in early March. I spoke to them about how much I’d owe and when it would be direct debited (the ONLY thing I allow to be direct debited – because I get an additional saving for this). We discussed that I would pay a 11-month payment in March 2013. So in March 2014, I could go back to buying a year, and always owe (and be charged) in March. Sadly, this did not happen. Who knows why? I have letters assuring me of the cost and the date. I have the phone calls too. And I have an online account which has another magic number on it.
I had the money waiting to be put on the credit card, which hadn’t been drawn. At least I knew my cover was still continuous (not due to lapse til mid April).
I promptly called NIB about the lack of a withdrawal, and they were great (that’s why I feel OK sharing their name with you). They totally admitted their stuff up (they’d inputted the withdrawal’s date with the wrong year d’oh). As it was their mistake, they offered me the same ‘cheapest’ price from the many I had (there was the number on the first letter, the second letter (cheapest), the online account). Now that we’re in April 2013, the price wouldn’t cover the 11 months I’d asked for, but they offered to ‘pay’ the difference between the rate I was quoted, and what it had changed to. Thank you, health fund, for being sensible, accepting some blame and saving me money!
In a related update – once I’d paid this bill, I closed the account where I’d be saving $20 weekly for the premiums. By closing the account, I got rid of the last account with that bank, bringing me down one bank – remember my bank round up a little while ago