Written by Katie Douglass
10/02/2021 | 5 minute read
Health insurance is one of those things that we all know we should probably look into getting, yet never quite get around to acquiring. We know it’s important, but it always seems to take a bit of a backseat to other priorities in life. It’s not until we’ve been hit with a substantial dental, optical or medical bill that we suddenly realise just how important health insurance is and wonder why we hadn’t purchased it before.
Now we know it’s important, but, what does it actually cover? Let’s take a look at everything health insurance and why it really is worth taking the time to invest in your health.
Health insurance is a type of private insurance that can help you cover the cost of hospital and medical costs and in some cases, even optical and dental expenses if you choose to get enough cover. This insurance helps cover either a portion of the costs or in some cases the entire costs of specified medical bills that are eligible under your cover. The cover you opt for can be basic, covering only the necessities or you can choose a more comprehensive form of insurance that covers a whole host of different procedures and health expenses. The beauty of there being so many health insurance providers on the market is that there is so much choice and opportunity to personalise your health insurance to what suits you best.
A fantastic benefit of private health insurance is that it may also help you get access to some hospital services much faster than you would have otherwise. It also allows you to choose where you’re treated and who your doctor or specialist is. This option is not generally available to people who only have public health insurance. Having control over these factors can lead to a much more positive experience overall and take a lot of the stress out of the whole experience.
There are a number of different kinds of health insurance depending on what you need and what level of cover you’re looking to get. These range from basic ambulance cover all the way up to comprehensive cover with added extras like dental and optical. There will be annual limitations on how much you can claim per procedure with any policy. Take a look at what your options are below.
This is your most basic type of cover, covering the costs of transport in an ambulance in the event of an emergency. The costs of an ambulance can be unneeded stress when you’re already going through a stressful emergency situation, so it’s always a good idea to ensure that you don’t need to worry about this. The transport costs of an emergency ambulance can be expensive so many people opt to get covered for these costs, just in case.
Hospital cover is a little more comprehensive, so expect to pay slightly higher premiums if you choose this level of cover. Hospital cover health insurance helps cover the costs of staying in hospital if something were to happen to you. Again, depending on what provider you sign up with will depend on what types of procedures and costs are covered in your policy. We highly recommend having a close look at all your inclusions before you decide on a provider to ensure that they cover everything you’re looking for.
Extras are a great option to invest in if you’re looking for a policy that covers other types of health concerns and expenses, like out of hospital medical expenses. Extras usually include things like minor and major dental, optical, chiropractors, massages and other health expenses that we may have on a more regular basis. The great benefit of extras cover is that you can choose how much of your procedures you would like your policy to cover. For example, for a lower premium you can choose to cover 50% of your upfront costs per appointment or for a higher premium you can choose to cover 80% or sometimes more. This means that your appointment costs will be a fraction of what they would be without private health insurance.
Extras are also fantastic in that you can choose to include it on another policy type, for example, ambulance cover with extras added. Or, you can often choose to just purchase extras cover on its own if you’re only looking to cover your more common health costs. Most health insurance providers are incredibly flexible and let you tailor your level of cover to your personal needs.
Most health insurance providers will have a waiting period that is applicable before you can claim any of your medical expenses. These will differ from provider to provider and procedure to procedure. The duration of the waiting period will often depend on the type of medical treatment that you are receiving. Generally, for your more basic procedures such as optical or basic dental procedures, your wait times are going to be shorter, anywhere from no waiting period at all to a 2-month waiting period. For other procedures, such as serious hospital cover, orthodontics or more complicated dental procedures, your waiting period will generally be a bit longer, such as 6-12 months.
With these waiting periods in mind, it really pays to invest in health insurance sooner rather than later. If you suddenly need your health insurance to cover some unexpected costs and you haven’t completed your required waiting period for the procedure, you very well may not be covered for the procedure. Investing in your health insurance sooner means that you’re more likely to be covered in the event that something unexpected happens. Panic buying health insurance at the last minute won’t cover you if you have waiting times that need to be observed first.
There are a few different things to think about before you decide which health insurance provider to purchase a policy with. Everyone’s needs are going to be different, so it’s important to have a good think about what you are looking for most before committing.
When looking to purchase health insurance, it’s important to think about who the policy is going to cover. This seems fairly self-explanatory, but if you’re looking to cover your entire family, you may need a different policy or provider than cover for just a single person. Make sure you have a good shop around and do some comparisons between different policies as some may be tailored to specific situations.
The more comprehensive your health insurance is, the more expensive it’s going to be. With this in mind, it can sometimes be a bit of a balancing act in terms of cover/cost, depending on your budget. If you just want the basic out of hospital costs covered, try looking for a provider that offers extras as a standalone policy. This will be one of your cheaper options. If budget isn’t an issue, try looking for a fully comprehensive cover policy plus extras. The beauty of health insurance is that it’s customisable to your budget and needs if you put a little time and research into finding the right policy.
Again, this will be entirely dependent upon you and your personal circumstances needs and wants. You may want certain things like dental or optical covered, while you’re not too worried about chiropractors or hospital costs. Take a bit of time to think about what’s most important to you before you start looking at policies.
Different health insurance providers will have different waiting periods for procedures. These waiting periods can impact your decision and your future medical costs greatly, so make sure you’re clear about these time frames and realistically, how long you would be happy to wait before using your policy to make claims.
If you have any pre-existing health conditions, be sure to disclose these to your potential provider. This could affect both the cost of your premiums and your future claims eligibility if you didn’t disclose a health condition upon sign up and they find out. If the insurer believes that they have been misled they may refuse to pay your claim and you’ll be out of pocket for both the premiums paid up till that point as well as any procedure costs that may be applicable due to unpaid claims.
There are some undeniable benefits to getting health insurance while you’re in your 20’s. Generally, the older you get before you purchase, the more expensive your premiums are going to be. The Australian Government initiative Lifetime Health Cover helps you avoid paying higher premiums for private health insurance. To be eligible for this initiative, you must purchase hospital cover before you’re 31-years old. This can help you save a substantial amount of money in the long run and is a great motivator to get that health insurance while you’re still young and healthy.
Making a claim on your health insurance is getting easier by the day. These range from on the spot claims with your member health insurance card, to online or in-person lodgements. In this day and age and with the technology available at our fingertips health insurance is becoming even more convenient.
A huge number of medical services providers such as dentists and optometrists have on the spot electronic claim systems available at reception. This means that after your procedure is complete simply hand over your private health insurance card and your rebate will be automatically applied before you’ve even paid for the service. The claim is immediate and incredibly convenient as you’re not fronting up with all the entire amount for the procedure and waiting for your covered portion to be deposited back into your account days later.
If you happen to have forgotten to take your health insurance member card with you to your appointment, you can lodge a claim online with your health insurance provider. This is usually a pretty simple process, just make sure you keep your receipt so you can enter the details of your claim correctly and have it handy if your provider asks to see it at a later date. Once your claim has been successfully processed, they’ll deposit your covered portion of the procedure back into your bank account. This could take several days to process and appear in your account.
Many health insurance providers have shops that you can visit as a walk-in customer. Simply take a copy of your receipt and your health insurance card along with you and they’ll process your claim for you
There’s no doubt about it. Private health insurance is something that we should all think about purchasing. It ensures that we’re covered in the event of an emergency, be that in a hospital or a dentist and makes life a lot easier and quite frankly, cheaper in the long run. For around the price of a few cups of coffee a week you could avoid costly ambulance bills, teeth-aching dentist bills and potentially incredibly expensive hospital visits.
Think about investing in health insurance while you’re young and carefree and unexpected expensive medical bills will be the last thing on your mind. Rather than putting off purchasing health insurance, why not take a look at how you can protect your health and by extension your finances today.
Enjoy peace of mind knowing that you’ve done your research and huge unexpected medical bills are a thing of the past.
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