Private Health Insurance – Do You Really Need It?

"Private Health Insurance

As we get older and our responsibilities increase, so do our expenses. When you’re a kid, all you have to worry about is finishing your one chore for the week to score that $5 of pocket money your parents have promised you. Then, your only worry is what treat you’re going to spend that $5 on at the convenience store down the road on a Friday afternoon. That’s it. Our parents take care of everything else. They look after our school fees (private schools), all our food, our family holidays, our private health insurance. They even make our beds, do our hair, and wash all our clothes.

Then you hit your teenage years, 15 or so, and your pocket money increases a little. You might even get yourself a part-time job at the local supermarket. You could start hitting up the tuckshop for lunch at school instead of Mum’s same old ham sandwich. Or you could save up for that XBox you’ve been wanting so badly. Then, you continue to grow through your teens, into your twenties. All of a sudden, 25 is approaching and life is getting real. You’re a full-blown adult and about to be faced with your own private health insurance bill. Another bill!

As if your rent, petrol, gym membership, groceries, holidays, bills and social life wasn’t enough! Now you’ve got to pay for your own private health insurance? This is where some people would throw in the towel in the hopes of avoiding yet another expense. However, it generally happens that you don’t realise how much you need something until you actually need it.

Private health insurance is something that can be overlooked by many Australians due to the ongoing expense. However, just like any insurance, it is there to protect yourself and your finances when things get tough. So, we’re going to have a look at the importance or private health insurance and then we can compare health insurance plans to find the best deal!

The importance of private health insurance

Having the proper health care is something all Australians should endeavour to do. Although we get some cover through Medicare, this is nothing compared to the protection that private health insurance offers you in the case of sickness or injury. Would you drive your car without insurance? Would you travel overseas without insurance? If not then why live your day-to-day life without properly insuring your health.

So, why is health cover so damn necessary? Well, let’s go through it.

It gives you peace of mind

As we grow up, we start to realise that life is full of the unexpected. Even the self-acclaimed psychics can’t predict half the of the stuff that just pops up around a blind corner at any given time. This is why insurance exists in the first place. To cover you when you run up the back of someone’s car, lose your laptop in Bali, or your home floods. You just don’t know what unfortunate event is around the corner next. Now, this is not to sound pessimistic or negative in any way. We’re just saying that it’s always best to be prepared.

Private health insurance means that you can rest easy knowing that if you ever bust your knee, need your wisdom teeth out, throw your back or need to B-line it for the emergency room, you’re covered.

It saves you money in the long run

When it comes time to pay for your own private health insurance, many people only see the initial monthly expense, thinking they’ll need small loans just to cover the cost. When you’re already up to your ears in bills, it can be difficult to look past this, and look at the bigger picture. Luckily for you, we’re all about the bigger picture.

Firstly, and this tip is for the spring chickens amongst us, health care is much cheaper before you turn 30. Now, seeing as you’re likely going to need private health cover at some point in your life, when things stop working as well as they should, why not get it while it’s cheap? If you take out health cover after the 1st of July following your 31st birthday, you’ll likely pay about 2% more for each year you didn’t have private health insurance over the age of 30. Then, naturally, as you get older, it gets more expensive. So the sooner you’re covered, the better.

Now, if you’re someone who needs regular treatments like physio, chiropractic, optical or cardiac, for example, you will save money every time you use any of the services, and some are even covered completely by your private health insurance. If you’re seeking treatment on a regular basis, you could save hundreds to thousands of dollars by using your health care to cover a percentage of these expenses.

What if you don’t need these treatments?

Well, if you’re not someone who needs those types of ongoing treatments, you may be thinking that there’s nothing in health insurance for you. The good news is that you only pay for what you need. If you’re a delicate flower, riddled with medical flaws, you can expect to pay a little more. Whereas, if you’re the type of person that will drink a glass of cement and move on, you may not want to include all the extra in your health care plan. The only thing you really need to have covered is hospital care and ambulance cover (depending on where you live).

Ambulance cover

In some states, ambulance cover is free, regardless of your health care plan. Not too sure about what’s covered in your state? Here’s a list.

  • ACT – Healthcare concession card and pensioner concession card holders are entitled to free ambulance transport services. If you’re not eligible for a concession card, you will not be covered unless you have private health insurance.
  • NSW – Healthcare concession card, pensioner concession card, and Commonwealth seniors health care card holders are entitled to free ambulance transport services.
  • NT – Pensioner concession card and Commonwealth seniors health card holders are entitled to free ambulance transfers. If you’re not eligible, you will not be covered unless you have private health cover or a subscription through the state ambulance service
  • QLD – Ambulance costs are covered by the state government
  • SA – If you want ambulance cover you will need to purchase it from a private health fund or have a subscription through the state ambulance service.
  • TAS – Ambulance costs are covered by the state government
  • VIC – Pensioner concession car and healthcare card holders are entitled to free ambulance transfers. Otherwise, it will need to be purchased through a private health care fund or a subscription through the state ambulance service.
  • WA – Aged pensioner concession holders may be entitled to free ambulance transfers. If you want cover otherwise you will need private health insurance or a subscription through the state ambulance service. However we can provide cash loans for WA residents.

Generally, ambulance fees start around $350 and can go up to almost $6,000 plus a per kilometre rate for the total distance the ambulance has to travel from the hospital to your location and back to the hospital.

Hospital cover

One plus side to hospital costs is that they are generally free to all Australian citizens and most permanent residents in Australia, as long as the patient visits a public hospital. Medicare will not cover private patient hospital costs, medical and hospital costs incurred overseas, or medical and hospital services which are not clinically necessary.

Let’s compare health insurance between the public and private sectors.

Medicare

  • You can be treated as a public patient in a public hospital by a doctor appointed by the hospital
  • You cannot choose your own doctor and may face long wait lists for being admitted to hospital. Essentially, you can’t choose when you are admitted unless it is an emergency. However, unless life threatening, you will still face wait lists if surgery is needed.
  • You are covered for: consultation fees for public doctors, tests and examinations by doctors needed to treat illnesses (e.g. pathology), eye tests, surgical procedures done in a public hospital, some surgical procedures performed by approved dentists, specific items under the cleft lip and palate scheme, the enhanced Primary Care Program and allied health services as part of the Chronic Disease Management Plan.
  • Medicare does not cover the cost of emergency or other ambulance services (unless you live in TAS or Queensland)

Private healthcare

  • You can choose to be treated as a private patient in either a public or private hospital
  • You can choose your own doctor and you can decide when to be admitted and not face long wait lists for treatment as long as you are at a private hospital
  • Private health insurance generally covers hospital accommodation, theatre fees, intensive care, drugs, dressings and other consumables, prosthesis, diagnostic tests, pharmaceuticals and any additional doctor’s fees
  • You can also choose to be covered for most dental examinations and treatments, most physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, eye therapy, chiropractic services, podiatry or psychology services. As well as, acupuncture, glasses and contact lenses, hearing aids and other appliances and home nursing.
  • If you choose to, you can also be covered for many prescription medicines
  • Private health insurance will also cover you for the cost of emergency and other ambulance services

You’re more willing to get the care you need

Another benefit of private health insurance is that it means that you will likely be more willing to seek medical treatment that isn’t covered under the public system. For example, you may be needing to get your wisdom teeth removed. However, this procedure is not covered by Medicare and generally costs between $200 and $400 per tooth, plus the cost of sedatives or general anesthesia. You could be looking at paying between $1,500 and $3,000.

Now, not all of us have that money just lying around, plus many people try to avoid the dentist like a bug on the ground. However, what happens when you’re teeth get infected or start to cause you pain and extraction is the only answer? If you are a member of a private health insurance fund, you will be covered for that procedure. The amount that you are covered will depend on your plan and the policies of your fund, however, cheaper is always better!

Knowing that procedures are going to cost a lot less will encourage you to always seek the care you need when you need it. If you have children, you can also rest easy knowing that they will also have the best possible care available to them should they ever need it.

Some more benefit of private health insurance include:

  • Avoid public hospital waiting lists and patient priority order
  • Stay in a private hospital room
  • Claim money back on non-Medicare health services
  • Dental cover
  • Select your doctor or surgeon
  • Claim private health insurance rebate
  • Avoid the Medicare Levy Surcharge
  • Save long-term on Lifetime Health Cover

How to find cheap health insurance

Now it’s time to find the private health plan that suits your needs. You could spend hours on the internet doing your own research to find the best private health insurance, or you could jump onto a comparison site and get them to do the hard work for you. iSelect is generally the best site for insurance, including private health and life insurance.

Your plan will vary depending on your age, gender, the number of people you’re wanting to be covered and your existing health care needs.

We know that there are always going to be mixed opinions about the importance of private health insurance. However, as a responsible financial institution, we would never suggest spending money on something that is not completely necessary. Private health insurance is the life insurance you need if tragedy ever strikes. It will guarantee you a cheaper, more comfortable experience that is more on your terms. If you are ever in the situation that puts you in the emergency room or needing surgery, you won’t know that your finances, health and mentality are going to be protected. It’s a small expense for a massive saving. It will save you money in the long run, save you time and it could even save your life.

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