Updated: 14 May 2021
Around June every year, Australian health funds and the government start talking about tax, health insurance and
a June 30 deadline—but why?
It’s all because of three financial incentives the government introduced nearly 20 years ago. The idea
was to get more people buying hospital insurance and into private hospitals, taking pressure off the public
Think about these incentives as two sticks and a carrot.
Your two sticks are the Medicare Levy Surcharge (a tax on high-income earners without hospital insurance),
and Lifetime Health Cover loading (it makes hospital insurance more expensive if you’re 31 or over,
you don’t have hospital insurance and try to get it later in life).
The carrot is the Australian Government Rebate on Private Health Insurance (makes
health insurance more affordable).
Confused? Don’t worry. Here’s what you need to know about health insurance, tax and the June 30
deadline. That way, you can figure out if you need to worry about it, or not.
The first stick—the Medicare Levy Surcharge
If you earn more than $90 000 (or $180 000 for families) and you don’t have hospital
insurance, you’ll get hit with the Medicare Levy Surcharge (MLS).
It’s a tax, separate from the Medicare Levy, that sits at 1 – 1.5 percent depending on your income
for MLS purposes1. Your income for MLS purposes is different from your taxable
income, so if you think the MLS might apply to you, it’s worth heading to the Australian Tax
Office’s website to read up on it.
To avoid the Medicare Levy Surcharge, you must take out an appropriate level of hospital insurance2
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Once you’ve got hospital insurance, you’ll only pay the MLS for the part of the financial
year you didn’t have it.
What does June 30 have to do with it? Nothing, actually.
You can take out hospital insurance whenever you want to avoid the Medicare Levy Surcharge. Some people
take it out by June 30 to have a clean slate for the coming financial year, but that’s entirely up
No matter when you get hospital insurance, you’ll still pay the Medicare Levy Surcharge for the
days you weren’t covered during the current financial year, which is why it doesn’t really
matter when you get hospital insurance if you want to avoid the tax.
The second stick—Lifetime Health Cover loading
Lifetime Health Cover loading (LHC loading) is an extra cost added to the base price of hospital
Unlike the MLS, LHC loading is not a tax. It’s an extra amount of money you pay on top of your
Here’s how it works.
If you’re 31 or older and you don’t have hospital insurance, you’ll get hit by the LHC
loading if you buy hospital insurance later in life. When you do take it out, for every year you are
over 30, you’ll pay an extra 2 percent for your hospital insurance. The most you'll ever pay in
loading is 70 percent.
For example, if you’re 40 and taking out hospital insurance for the first time, you’ll pay 20 percent
more than a 30-year-old you.
Most people think you need to get hospital insurance before you turn 30 to avoid the loading—but
you have more time than you think.
To avoid the loading, you need to buy hospital insurance on or before 1 July following your
The LHC loading is the only government incentive where the deadline really matters. If
you’re even a day over the deadline, you’ll start paying the loading.
The good news is, once you get hospital insurance, the loading stops increasing. That means if you
buy it at 32, you’ll only ever pay 4 percent on top of your hospital insurance premium if you maintain your cover.
Once you’ve paid the loading for 10 continuous years, it’s removed. From there, just hold
onto your hospital cover so you don’t end up with the loading again.
If, once you’ve served your 10 years, you need to temporarily drop your hospital cover for
whatever reason, don’t worry—you’ve got a generous grace period to do things
like switch health funds or suspend your membership while you’re overseas without affecting
The other good news is the loading doesn’t apply to your extras insurance or any other health
insurance—it only applies to hospital insurance.
RELATED: Lifetime Health Cover
The carrot—the Australian Government Rebate on Private Health Insurance
If you need to get hospital insurance because of the MLS, the loading, for peace of mind or a
combination of all three, the rebate can help make hospital insurance cheaper.
The rebate is a sum of money the government chips in to help make health insurance more affordable for those who are eligible to receive it.
It applies to all health insurance, including hospital, extras and ambulance insurance.
There are two ways to get the rebate: apply it to your health insurance premium to
bring down the price, or claim it back at tax time.
Your rebate amount works out as a percentage of your health insurance premium. It's means tested, so
depending on your age and income, your rebate will be anywhere between 0 – 32.8 percent.
For example, if you’re under 65 and earn less than $90 000, your rebate will be 24.608
There's a bunch of different rebate brackets for different income and age ranges, which you can check
How do you get the rebate? Easy—just get in touch with your health fund and they’ll help
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1 ATO - Income thresholds and rates for the Medicare levy surcharge (2021)?
2 ATO - Private health insurance rebate (2021)
3 ATO - Lifetime health cover (2021)