Banner image of stethescope for Madonna King Column on Thursday 16 April 2020

Dear Bupa,

I’m thinking we might need to break up; I just can’t afford your expensive taste for much longer.

It was okay, before COVID-19. You gave me what you’d promised. A tiny refund on dental. An even tinier one on optometry. On physiotherapy, a couple of times, I was uber-grateful.

But you’ve started to take our relationship for granted, and that’s become apparent since home isolation has prevented many of those activities where we shared an interest.

That monthly bill of $754.60 is due again tomorrow. And this time, it’s really making me think whether you’re playing your part in our relationship; a relationship that started under my parents, and I’ve kept going through thick and thin.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m pleased the big hike in premiums due to take effect on April 1 is now being delayed for six months – but we’ll still get them!

And my issue is more that you are not even delivering on your part of the bargain now. I pay $754.60 each month so my family of four can feel protected.

But how can we go to the dentist, if he’s not open? And yet, we’re paying for that as part of the  ‘extras’ cover you boast.


The same goes for orthodontics, and even a hygiene clean. None of those work on tele-health.

So what about optical, because sadly, as middle-aged creeps up, and takes over, I’m finding the night driving a bit more challenging. My daughter needs her annual test too. 

But is it really sensible, to sit in that small room, with our optometrist centimetres from our face? On the ‘essential travel’ barometer, it seems to fall a touch short.

So we’ll wait for the eye test, despite your charge for it.

Let’s go through a few of those other services I’m paying for during lockdown.

Physiotherapy, thank goodness, I don’t need at the moment. But wouldn’t it fall into the same category as optical?

Acupuncture is out. 

And so is occupational therapy, perhaps. Of course, if I really needed it you make the point that it is available on tele-health. But is it really the same? Really?

Don’t get me started on exercise. My cover allows me to claim on gym workouts, and that was important to me. You see, 10 days before we brought down the shutters, and oblivious to what was to come, my GP counselled me into twice-weekly weight sessions.

That’s not unusual; menopause brings all sorts of delights, including a reduction in bone density.

So I signed up, paid the $400-odd in advance, and then, that clinic closed its doors with a bang. My money is still in their till.

I’m hoping to get it back, if it reopens. If. Now I know that’s not your fault. But where do you suggest I go to the gym, given my monthly payment allows a claim for it?

Your discounts too, with respect, have now been rendered useless. Five swimming lessons for $25 at participating community pools. Which ones? Because our boys and girls in blue might have a pretty s strong objection to that. And I couldn’t afford a $1300, just to get the discount on lessons.

You promise, for all Bupa members, a 30-day gym membership for $9.95. But where would that be now? Not to mention the six percent discount on booking.com. Have’t you heard? The Premier, and good on her, cancelled Easter holidays this year.

The list goes on. Fifteen percent off at Dreamworld? How many of your members are taking that up?  Eight percent oft sales fares at Emirates? And 25 percent off cinema tickets, when the cinemas are not even open.

I could go on. The Fitness First passes. The treetop adventures. RedBalloon activities. Ten pin bowling two-for-one deals. Sea World discounts. 

But then, I spotted pharmacy. Yes, we are all spending up big there; I guess a lot of your members are. This could save you and me, I thought, and the relationship we’ve shared for decades. I forgot even the long, long queues each time I went to meet you, and lodge a claim.

And then, with a tiny bit of investigation, I found my local pharmacy doesn’t have some ‘deal’ with you, so no claim there either.

So dear Bupa, what are you really doing for me?


And what’s your view on our long-term partnership?

Because that big premium hike you are planning for six months’ time is not the gift I’m looking for; I just want to be respected, like any long-term partner. 

Let’s talk.

Photograph of Madonna King

Madonna King is a leading journalist and commentator. An award-winning presenter of 612 ABC Brisbane, she has authored 12 books and now works across radio, television and online.

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