There are several reasons why private health insurance premiums rise every year on April 1 and there’s not much you as the consumer can do about any of them.

But what you can do is stop thinking it’s all too hard, make just a little time and use some of the tools to help yourself get more comprehension and control over the costs.

Too many people are either on the wrong policy (60 year-olds with obstetrics cover) or with the wrong provider ( a costly one) to suit their unique needs.

They can end up paying too much or make poor but easy cost-cutting decisions such as excluding conditions from cover they may find out too late they’ll need.

So why the April Fool’s Day hikes? It’s a combination of regulation, economics and demography ie health costs rising more than CPI, more clever but costly technology and an ageing population which claims for more often and for longer.

Given the web of government sticks and carrots, such as the Medicare Levy Surcharge and now means-tested premium rebate, the health minister gets to vet proposed premium rises.

This year’s clocks in at just under 5% on average but there are some policies going up by more like 10%. If you have cover you will have got a letter from your fund spelling out how much  so use it as a prompt to do better.

If you contact your fund direct or use their website they’ll just tell you what they have on offer. It might be good but there plenty of other funds out there including not-for-profit, regional and restricted operators (this means you or maybe a family member have to be a teacher or once worked for the bank or the defence forces)

You can get more information and comparisons  from the consumer site CHOICE or the government’s own site but they can’t give personalised advice, have humans to answer questions or switch you to a fund.

There are comparison services such as iSelect, Compare the Market and Choosewell which use  their sites and consultants to match your needs with the a better value policy.

They can earn commissions if you switch or open a policy but are bound by a code of conduct to ensure transparency and that consumers’ interests are paramount.

There’s a wide range of choice out there but only one decision you need to make. Am I just going to pay every increasing premiums with the same fund or am I going to maximise the value by finding a policy which suits my needs?

This is a list of some of the special health insurance offers currently available, courtesy of

Fund March 2017 deals

The offer: Earn up 70,000 Flybuys points, one month free cover and have 2 and 6 month extras waiting periods waived

Conditions: New members who join and commence an eligible hospital and extras package from 1 – 30 March 2017 will have the 2 and 6 month extras waiting periods waived. Check ahm website for full terms and conditions.

The offer: $100 Visa gift card for singles, $200 gift card for couples and families. Extras waiting period waiver – 2 months and 6 months for optical

Conditions: Offer available to new members who join Australian Unity between 1 March and 31 March 2017. The offer is available when hospital cover is purchased with extras cover. Not available on Overseas Visitors Cover or for Extras only cover. Waiting periods apply to wisdom teeth extractions, periodontics and endodontics. Check the Australian Unity website for full terms and conditions.

CBHS(Restricted fund)

The offer: Get a gift card worth $100/$200 to a selection of retailers and a waiver on 2 and 6 month waiting periods

Conditions: Offer available to eligible new members who join CBHS before 31 March 2017. Check the CBHS website for full terms and conditions.

The offer: Get 6 weeks free cover

Conditions: Join GMHBA on any combined hospital and extras cover or package during March 2017 and get 6 weeks free. You must be a new member to GMHBA, pay via direct debit (account or credit card) and pay for a minimum of one month. Check the GMBHA website for full terms and conditions.

The offer: Get a bonus $50 cash card

Conditions: Can only be redeemed by new customers who join online via the HIF website or over the phone. Must use promocode HIF50Not available through partner sites. Check the HIF website for full terms and conditions.

The offer: Get one month free plus 2 and 6 month waiting periods waived on extras

Conditions: Offer available to new members on new memberships who take out combined Hospital and Extras cover by 31 March 2017. Check the Medibank website for full terms and conditions.

The offer: Choose a $150 eGift Card

Conditions: The offer is only available to new members who purchase of an nib combined Hospital and Extras Australian policy. Check the nib website for full terms and conditions.

The offer: Score a $100 gift card

Conditions: Available for new members who join one of a hospital or combination policy. Check the Peoplecare website for full terms and conditions.

The offer: One month free and 2 month periods waived on all extras benefits

Conditions: Available for new members who take out a combination policy before 30 April 2017. Check the Westfund website for full terms and conditions.

Christopher Zinn is a consumer campaigner who works with PHIIA the private health insurance intermediaries association which represents most comparison sites.

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