Choosing isn't tricky at moneytime
Private health insurance offers peace of mind for health issues that come up either as a surprise, like breaking a leg while skiing, or something you expect, like renewing your contact lenses or visiting the dentist.
Health funds give you the ability to choose the level of health cover most relevant to your age, lifestyle and circumstances, to cover you for almost any health incident. There are also financial benefits to taking out private health insurance, as holding hospital cover can exempt a taxpayer from the Medicare Levy Surcharge.
So how do you choose which cover to take out from amongst the many health insurance policies in the market?
moneytime makes it easy. Choose the features (e.g. cardiac cover, pregnancy cover, dental benefits) you want from your health cover, and our fast, efficient comparison engine does the rest. Sifting through the available options from a range of leading health funds, we give you all the information you need to find the health insurance plan that's right for you.
Private health insurance, and why you need it
Private health insurance covers you for the treatment as an individual patient in a private or public hospital of your choice, with the doctor of your choosing. Individual patients are given greater flexibility when scheduling elective surgery and shorter waiting times.
Without private health insurance, you have to rely on the free public health system. This means you will be treated by a doctor selected by the hospital and subject to their availability. If your situation is not life-threatening, you maybe need to wait long periods before treatment is available. According to the Department of Health and Ageing, 15% of people are not admitted for surgery within a 'clinically appropriate time frame', and waiting times for elective surgery have increased even further still. Hospital admissions continue to grow (4% in the past year). Again, public hospital beds have only increased at a rate of 0.4% every year for the past decade (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Report 2006-2007).
By taking out private health insurance, you can ensure the best medical protection for yourself and your family, and your health fund will take care of the bills. You can choose a health insurance plan that suits your lifestyle and budget, and even add Extras (non-Medicare features) like dental work, physiotherapy, optical benefits and remedial massage for complete health care.
What the health funds offer
Private health funds offer a range of health insurance policy options - from basic coverage for those who want to avoid the Medicare Levy Surcharge through to comprehensive cover for complete peace of mind. There're many options available for you to choose from, so compare today and balance the benefits received with the amount you are prepared to pay.
All health funds offer options in Hospital Cover, Extras Cover (which are the add-ons that Medicare doesn't cover) and a combination of the two.
While there is no way to predict whether or not you will break a leg while skiing, there are other benefits that you can more predictably claim - such as pregnancy services, orthodontics and so on. Most importantly, private health insurance offers peace of mind, so you know you'll be covered for any medical emergencies that may arise.
Health funds also offer Excess or Co-Payments options, which reduce your up-front premium in exchange for your agreement to pay some out-of-pocket costs if you are admitted to hospital.
Hospital Cover helps with the cost of hospital treatment, treatment by your doctor and associated costs such as accommodation and theatre fees.
Health funds offer various combinations of hospital cover. Full cover for accommodation and in-hospital medical charges command higher premiums, but you can reduce your premiums by:
agreeing not to be fully covered for some conditions or
meeting some of the costs for those conditions (Excess or Co-Payments)
moneytime allows you to compare a range of health insurance policies from leading Australian health funds and to make your choice based on what is important to you. All the information is provided so you can make a wise, informed decision without having to run around for the information yourself.
Health funds offer Extras (or Ancillary) cover for a range of non-hospital services such as physiotherapy, optical or dental treatment, as well as therapies such as chiropractic and osteopathy.
Extras Cover is often available separately, or in combination with Hospital Cover. You can choose all the features you know you'll claim for, such as optical, dental and physio, as well as some you want to take advantage of, like remedial massage and naturopathy, to support your Hospital Cover and provide complete health care.
Combined Hospital and Extras
By far the most popular (and most all-around) private health insurance cover available is combined Hospital and Extras, and every health fund offers a wide variety of health insurance policies in this category.
When selecting health cover for yourself and your family, it makes sense to focus on the features and benefits that are appropriate to your circumstances and lifestyle.
Choosing the right health cover
The comprehensive health insurance policy for you is the one that most closely fits your lifestyle and budget. At moneytime, we make it easy to choose health insurance, allowing you to pick the features you want in your health cover. For example, if you are young, single and unattached, you are less likely to be interested in covering for pregnancy, IVF treatment or hip replacement. But you might be keen to keep your options open on chiro, physio and naturopathy.
The moneytime comparison engine searches out only those health insurance policies which offer full coverage for the features you select. We show you how you can lower your health insurance premium by choosing a cover with Excess or Co-payment options (see the section below), where you pay an agreed amount from your pocket for hospital visits. If the results don't suit you or you change your mind on the selection criteria, you can smoothly go back and refine your choice to find a better fit.
Excess or Co-payments
Health funds use Excess or Co-payment options to offer lower premiums on some of their health insurance policies. An Excess is a sum you agree to pay towards the cost of hospital treatment, regardless of the number of days you are in hospital. For example, if you take out a health insurance policy with a $200 Excess, you agree to pay the first $200 of your hospital bill, whether you're admitted for one night or ten nights. Some policies charge the Excess for your early admission to the hospital only, while others charge the Excess every time you are admitted.
A Co-payment, on the other hand, is a sum of money you agree to pay for every day that you spend in the hospital up to an agreed amount. For example, if you have a Co-payment of $50x4, you will pay $50 for each night you are in hospital for the first four nights only. There is usually an upper limit to the total number of Co-payments you will be required to pay for each stay in the hospital, or over a year.
Excess and Co-payment arrangements differ between health funds and health insurance policies, so it is essential to read the policy document before selecting your cover. Keep in mind also that to avoid the Medicare Levy Surcharge, your health cover may contain no Excess higher than $500 for singles or $1000 for couples and families.
A waiting period is a time between taking out a health insurance policy, and when the benefits of that policy become available to you.
Usually, there will be no waiting period before you are eligible for hospital or medical treatment as the result of an accident that happens after you join the health fund. Also, you will not have to serve additional waiting periods if you transfer from one health fund to another with the same or a lower level of benefits, as any waiting periods you have already served are credited to you. However, your new health fund may require waiting periods to be served before you are eligible for any new or higher benefits on your individual health insurance policy.
The Government has established maximum waiting periods that health funds can impose as a guideline. These are:
12 months for obstetric cases
12 months for pre-existing ailments
Two months for psychiatric care, rehabilitation or palliative care (whether or not these are pre-existing conditions)
Two months in all other circumstances
There are no Government regulations covering waiting periods for benefits under Extras Cover.
You should always make sure you clearly understand the waiting periods associated with the health insurance plan you take out.
Federal Government Rebate
Australians eligible for Medicare may receive a rebate on their health insurance based on their income and the age of the oldest person covered under the policy.
There are three ways to receive the rebate:
The most common method is to deduct it from your premium by submitting a registration form supplied by your chosen Health Fund. (Note: Moneytime assumes this method will be used when providing you with health insurance quotes. If you decide to use either of the other techniques, the health insurance rate you pay to the Health Fund will be correspondingly higher.)
You may prefer to claim the rebate when completing your tax return, or
As a cash amount from your local Medicare office.
Lifetime Health Cover
Lifetime Health Cover is a Government initiative made in order to encourage people to take out private health insurance (Hospital Cover) at a younger age and to maintain that cover over their lifetime.
Joining a health fund and getting Hospital Cover before 1 July following your 31st birthday ensures that you receive the lowest rate for as long as you continue to hold Hospital Cover. Joining after this date attracts an additional 2% loading for each year without Hospital Cover from the age of 30, up to a limit of 70%. For example, if you take out hospital cover at 35 years of age, you will pay a 10% loading on the premium quoted. People who have held private health insurance continuously for ten years are now rewarded by having their filling removed altogether.
Transferring between health funds will not affect your Lifetime Health Cover entitlements so long as the health insurance transfer includes Hospital Cover. Read more about Lifetime Health Cover.
The Medicare Levy Surcharge
The Medicare Levy Surcharge is an extra 1-1.5% tax levied on those without eligible Hospital Cover who are earning above a certain threshold.
This can be avoided by taking out Hospital Cover with an Excess no higher than $500 for individuals and $1000 for couples. You may choose this Hospital Cover as part of your private health insurance package or select a basic hospital cover on its own, which, in some cases, can be even cheaper than the cost of the Medicare Levy Surcharge.
Read more about the Medicare Levy Surcharge