If you haven’t seen the billboards featuring a lippy quokka telling Australians not to settle for “a quokka s–t”, congratulations – you really have been taking social distancing seriously.
The campaign is a mile away from typical health insurance ads, which often feature attractive families basking in the warm glow of their health cover.
It comes from successful WA-based insurer HBF, a name that until this year was virtually unknown east of the Nullarbor.
So is this an upstart, low-budget entrant to the health insurance market looking to kick the shins of the big boys?
Well, not quite.
HBF has been around for almost 80 years and is only slightly smaller than nib.
It’s also Australia’s second largest not-for-profit health fund after HCF.
So why hadn’t you heard of it before the quokkas bounced into your newsfeed?
Well, if you live in Western Australia you certainly will have, because HBF is the state’s largest health insurer.
More than one in two West Aussies with health cover are members of HBF.
Yes that’s right, HBF has more members in WA than Medibank, Bupa, HCF, nib and the plethora of smaller funds, combined.
Until now HBF’s focus has been on delivering great health cover for Western Australia, and it has done it well.
Western Australians are significantly more likely to have private health insurance than most of their eastern counterparts, with 53.6 per cent of Western Australians holding hospital cover compared to the national average of 43.8 per cent (as at March 2020).
In extras cover (dental, optical, physio etc), the difference is even greater: 68.7 per cent of all Sandgropers have extras cover, compared to 53.2 per cent of the country as a whole (March 2020).
HBF will tell you that the enthusiasm of Western Australians for health insurance has a lot to do with the quality of its offering.
Now HBF believes the time is right to present that offering to the rest of the country.
It has opened an office in Melbourne and the quokka campaign is its first advertising outside WA.
HBF CEO John Van Der Wielen says the campaign is deliberately provocative, positioning HBF as a challenger to the big health insurers who dominate in other states.
When he hears that the campaign is irritating other health funds, he knows the quokkas (aka Gracie, Buddy and Gene) are earning their keep.
“We want the members of other funds to ask themselves if they could do better – because we honestly believe they could with HBF,” John says.
As evidence, he points to HBF’s record of lower premium increases than its major competitors and its support for members in response to COVID-19.
“In March we realised our members would experience real financial pain from the COVID shutdown and we responded by cancelling our 2020 premium increase altogether,” he says.
“Every other major fund just postponed their increase till October.”
It’s a striking point of difference and John says it speaks volumes about HBF’s determination to use its position as a well-capitalised, non-profit company, with no shareholders, to do the right thing by its members.
We reckon they’re worth a second look – and not just because of the quokkas.
Want to find out more? Visit hbf.com.au/health-insurance and compare HBF’s hospital and extras covers.