TURNING 31? GETTING YOUR PRIVATE HEALTH COVER SORTED COULD SEE YOU AVOID PAYING THE LIFETIME HEALTH COVER LOADING (LHC).
You’re in your 30s and life is becoming a little busier these days. You’re working hard to establish your career, saving for your first home and settling down with your life partner. You may even be thinking about starting a family sometime soon.
With so much going on, it’s no wonder you haven’t had time to think about the implications of not having private health insurance.
Once you’ve blown out those 31 candles, you’ve got until 1 July to take out hospital cover
Otherwise, you’ll be paying a loading on top of your insurance premium known as Lifetime Health Cover Loading (LHC).
WHAT IS LIFETIME HEALTH COVER LOADING?
Lifetime Health Cover Loading is an Australian Government initiative designed to encourage more Aussies to take up private health insurance at a younger age and continue to maintain it long term.
It’s simply a levy that’s charged on top of your premiums every year if you don’t have hospital cover in place after turning 31.
Should you choose to ignore the LHC loading or delay getting the adequate cover, you may have to pay an additional 2% on top of the base rate of your health cover each year come tax time.
LHC caps at a maximum of 70% and is removed once you’ve held hospital cover for a period of 10 continuous years. After that, the loading remains at 0% as long as you continue to hold private health cover.
How does LHC loading affect me?
Once you’ve turned 31, the implications of LHC become real because if you don’t take out hospital cover before LHC Base Day (1 July 2000 or 1 July following your 31st birthday), you’ll incur a 2% premium increase every year, capped at 70%.
While 2% on top of your premium doesn’t seem much, once the years start stacking up without hospital cover, you’ll be potentially losing a significant amount of money to LHC.Take this example:
- You’re 34 and you’ve never considered private health insurance before.
- Now that you’re considering starting a family, you’ve decided private hospital cover might suit your current and future healthcare needs.
- So, you commit to taking out a hospital policy with the base rate premium of $1,400. You’ll also have to pay LHC loading of 8% (4 years x 2%). This will increase your premium to $1,512.
- Leave it until you’re 39 years old, and you’ll have to pay an additional 18% on top of your premium.
- What until you’re 50 and you’ll have to pay an increase of 40%. Yikes!
The good news is, once you’ve held continuous hospital cover for 10 years, any loading will be removed. However, if you decide you don’t need private hospital cover at any time and cease your policy, the LHC loading will be reapplied should you take it up again.
Read enough and ready to see how you can avoid paying too much in LHC loading fees? Why not skip ahead and get started with an online quote right now?
Our comparison tool allows you to compare a range of options from health funds in just a few minutes.
What if I’m older than 31 and miss the deadline?
It’s not uncommon for people to forget to purchase hospital cover before the deadline or choose to take out health insurance later on in life when they see its value.
However, unless you’re eligible for a special exemption - such as you recently migrated to Australia or you were travelling overseas on 1 July following your 31st birthday - you’ll have to pay the loading. If you’re able to use any Days of Absence you may also be exempt from paying the loading for some of the ten year period.
Thankfully, picking up hospital cover as soon as you can will at least prevent your premium from rising any further. And, the LHC loading will expire at the earliest possible date.
If numbers aren’t your strong suit, you can double check your figures with the Lifetime Health Cover calculator.
What are Days of Absence?
Days of Absence refers to the permitted days you can be without hospital cover without impacting the LHC. While you must maintain private hospital cover for 10 continuous years before the loading is removed, you’re allowed a total of 1,094 days in which you can have a break from cover. This may include:
Temporary gaps in hospital cover
Temporarily suspending your cover
Extended overseas travel
Does everyone have to pay the LHC?
Looking for a lifetime health cover loading exemption? There are some special circumstances where Australian citizens won’t have to pay the loading on top of their premiums, including:
You’re over 81 years old
You turned 31 while overseas
You’re able to visit Australia for up to 90 days, but if you decide to move back, you’ll have to buy hospital cover within a year of your return to avoid being penalised.
You were overseas on 1 July 2000
You’re a member of the Australian Defence Force
If you are currently serving in the Australian Defence Force (ADF), you’ll automatically receive hospital cover through the ADF and won’t need to worry about purchasing a policy.
Should you be discharged from the ADF following 1 July after your 31st birthday, you have 1,094 days to buy hospital cover. After this period, the standard LHC loading applies. If you choose to leave the ADF before your 31st birthday the standard LHC rules apply.
YOU HOLD A DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS’ AFFAIRS GOLD CARD
You’ve just migrated to Australia
LHC loading for couples and families
If you’re considering combining your policy with your partner to couple or family hospital cover and you’re both over 31, your applied LHC loading will be calculated as an average of the time you’ve both been without cover.
For example, if you were paying a 10% LHC loading and your partner was paying 4%, the loading will be averaged out to 7% on a couple or family policy.
OTHER TAX BENEFITS OF GETTING HOSPITAL COVER
It’s not just the LHC loading fees you could avoid by taking out private hospital cover. Once you start earning a taxable invoice of over $93,001 ($186,001 for couples and families), you’ll be subjected to the Medicare Levy Surcharge (MLS) at tax time.
Depending on your taxable income, you could be paying an additional tax for up to 1.5% for every day of the financial year that you’re without hospital cover.
So, if you’ve reached the MLS income threshold and recently turned 31, you could avoid the extra tax and premium loading by simply taking out private hospital insurance. If you choose to do so half way through the financial year you’ll only be changed for the time you weren’t covered.
Private hospital cover is definitely worth considering in this scenario as a basic policy may be cheaper than paying the additional loading and taxes, and you’ll be enjoying the benefits.
What happens if I switch health funds?
Don’t let the LHC loading prevent you from switching health funds if you’ve found a better deal. Switching insurance providers doesn’t mean there will be any Lifetime Health Cover Loading changes to your policy.
We recommend maintaining your current cover until the date you transfer to your new health fund.
This way, you’ll avoid using up any of your valuable permitted days you can be without hospital cover during your lifetime. We think it’s much better to spend those 1,094 on travel than transferring from fund to fund!
If you’re already paying LHC loading with your old fund, this will be moved with you to your new cover.
Are you ready to consider hospital cover?
While the LHC loading may seem minor at first, if you calculate the amount you need to pay in addition to your premium over the 10 year period, the figures can add up significantly.
Taking the time to understand how the LHC loading affects you may just highlight the value of hospital cover. Especially when you’re likely to be at a time in your life when you’re juggling the rising costs of living, the expensive housing costs, and potentially saving to start a family.
If you’re ready to take a closer look at hospital cover, comparing funds is the best way to compare the benefits. And if you’re expecting to pay the LHC loading on your new policy, comparing premium costs will become even more important to help you reduce the costs of health insurance.
With our comparison tool you can compare a range of extras cover options from Australian health funds. Finding the right private health insurance policy for your health needs couldn’t be any easier and takes a few minutes!
If you have any questions or queries, we have friendly staff who are all health insurance experts. You can call one of our team on 1300 806 119
FAQsWhat is LHC loading, and how does it affect my private health insurance premiums?
LHC loading refers to the Lifetime Health Cover loading, which is a penalty applied to individuals who do not take out private hospital cover before the age of 31. It increases the cost of premiums by 2% for every year the individual is aged over 30 when taking out hospital cover. This loading can significantly increase premiums for those who delay taking out private health insurance.Is there a maximum LHC loading that can be applied to my private health insurance premiums?
Yes, the maximum LHC loading that can be applied is 70%. Once an individual has held private hospital cover for ten continuous years, the loading is removed entirely, and they are considered to have Lifetime Health Cover "certification." This means they won't incur any additional loading, regardless of their age.Can the Australian Government rebate help reduce my private health insurance premiums and LHC loading?
Yes, the Australian Government private health insurance rebate can help reduce the cost of premiums, including LHC loading. The rebate is income-tested and provided as a percentage of your premium. Depending on your income and age, the rebate can effectively lower your premiums and make private health insurance more affordable.I'm a new migrant to Australia. Do I need to worry about LHC loading?
As a new migrant, you have a grace period of 12 months from the date you become eligible for Medicare to take out private hospital cover for the first time without incurring LHC loading. It's important to consider private health insurance during this period to avoid LHC loading once the grace period ends.If I have short periods without private health insurance, will it affect my LHC loading?
Short periods without private health insurance are allowed without affecting your LHC loading. The loading is calculated based on the number of years you have held continuous cover, so brief gaps in coverage won't impact your loading. However, it's essential to maintain continuous cover for at least ten years to remove the loading entirely.What are waiting periods?
Waiting periods are specific periods of time that individuals need to wait after purchasing private health insurance before they can access certain treatments, services, or benefits. During this waiting period, policyholders are not eligible to claim for those particular treatments or services.