Empty Nesters' Guide to Health Insurance

21 May 2015
If you’ve suddenly become and empty-nester then it’s time to review and compare your health insurance needs.

Totally liberating, depressingly sad and everything else in between. Regardless of your true feelings about it, your ‘little babies’ will inevitably grow up and leave home in their quest to fly. When it happens it’s time for you to get practical. It’s a major change in your life as well as theirs and there are plenty of ways you can reclaim your time and free up a bit of money as well. What’s not to like about that?

When the kids leave home and become financially independent, it’s a great time. Furthermore, your costs of living can be significantly reduced, and one of the biggest instances is your health cover: if your kids are starting to get covered themselves, it’s the perfect opportunity to reassess your own health insurance and reap the savings – whilst not skimping on the cover you need. So if you’ve had a certain policy for a few years, you may well have outgrown it. That’s why it’s important to look at your needs to make sure you are getting the best cover for your current circumstances.

How can I modify my health cover?

Once your kids have moved out of home, the lack of a need to provide and care for them can change your healthcare needs significantly. Now that there’s a whole swathe of medical issues that you no longer need to worry about, you can potentially afford to remove a lot of coverage from your health policy and save yourself money. Do make sure that you keep the inclusions that are important to your own situation though!

Furthermore, you no longer have to financially support your kids, which leaves you more money to spend on your changing health cover needs as you grow older! Perhaps you should shift your cover towards optical, chiro & physio?

With these circumstances in mind, many health funds offer tailored plans for couples whose children have left the nest; these omit unnecessary cover for things such as obstetrics, orthodontics and so on. Switching plans is usually an easy process, even if you’re changing providers, and as long as your cover is constant it won’t affect your Medicare rebate and levy savings (if applicable).

What are some common extras to get cover for?

Cover for older couples will typically include things which will become useful in future years – as we get older, things start to break down a bit from years of use, so it’s good to be covered for most eventualities. It may be worth upgrading your extras cover for more extensive options. Common policy inclusions are more extensive dental, eye treatment, hearing aids, dialysis, pharmacy and physiotherapy. Many funds also have inclusions to cover the cost of living an active, healthy lifestyle, such as covering gym and sports membership fees.

Save with an excess

Under your updated health cover circumstances, you may well decide to opt for an excess on your hospital cover. This is when you agree to pay part of the bill if you go to hospital. In return, the health fund reduces your premiums. Obviously, the more you agree to pay, the lower your premiums. So if you don’t foresee the need to go to hospital, choosing an excess can be something to think about in the new no-kids environment. If you do go down that path though, make sure that any excess you have to fork out will be affordable.

What if I want to keep my kids on my insurance?

If your kids can’t yet afford to get themselves covered (and you’re willing to keep paying for them!), then you may be able to keep your children on your family plan up until they turn 25. Children are considered ‘dependents’ until they turn 18, at which point your health fund may charge you a greater premium or impose some conditions – such as being a full-time student – in order for your kids to be covered. Check the details with your specific health insurer.

If your children are 25 or older, they’ll have to take out their own health insurance if they want private cover, but don’t worry; Medicare still provides fantastic benefits for the majority of medical treatment if you’re uninsured.

What are some ways to stay healthy at my age?

As we grow older, it becomes even more important to take care of our health; that time spent in your twenties staying out drinking and sitting on the couch all day is something your body just won’t let you get away with anymore. Fortunately, the key habits to staying healthy are the same as they always were: sleeping well, eating nutritious food (but not too much!), getting plenty of exercise and having fun doing it, and spending lots of quality time with your favourite people.

Remember, your mental and social health are just as important as your physical well-being, even if you can’t see them when you look in the mirror; a healthy life is made up of many different factors, so make sure you find yourself a happy balance.

Compare health insurance policies

CANSTAR make it easy for you to compare your health insurance needs. Our most recent Star Ratings obtained more than 26,000 quotes from some 707 eligible health insurance products provided by 22 health insurers and measured against 13 demographic profiles.

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