Sunday, July 15, 2007

Buying guide: Health insurance


What kind of insurance is available?

Broadly speaking, you can choose hospital cover and extras/ancillary cover. These are available separately or combined.

Hospital cover pays:

  • Some of the doctors’ fees.

  • A benefit for accommodation

  • Some treatment costs in hospitals the fund has an agreement with.

  • But it may not include cover for other costs such as phone calls or television sets.

Extras/ancillary cover contributes to:

  • The cost of non-hospital treatments that aren’t covered by Medicare.

  • This usually includes dental or physiotherapy treatment and products like glasses and contact lenses and may also include less common treatments such as acupuncture or podiatry.

  • The range of benefits paid varies between funds, and the payout is unlikely to cover the whole cost of the treatment.

Step-by-step guide to health insurance

Step 1: Do you need private insurance?

Every Australian is entitled to free treatment in a public hospital. Private health insurance can have the following advantages: More certainty you’ll have choice of doctor, shorter waiting times for elective surgery and access to private hospitals.

Step 2: How to save

Use our strategies to save money while taking out hospital insurance.

Step 3: Compare products

A key factor in choosing hospital insurance is which private hospitals a particular fund lets you use. It's also important to check restrictions that apply to the hospital cover you're considering. Some funds restrict the overall cover for extras by combining the maximum limits — for example, saying you can have $400 worth of physiotherapy and chiropractic in a year instead of $400 for each. This restriction can mean very large differences in how much you’ll get.

Step 4: Read the fine print – checklist

Before signing up with any fund, read its brochure and key features guide thoroughly. If there’s anything about your entitlements that you don’t completely understand, write to the insurer and get written answers to your questions before you join. Our fine print checklist includes questions to ask when you take out insurance, when you’re reviewing it and before you go into hospital.

Step 5: How to switch – checklist

Health funds often claim it’s easy to switch. But switching can become stressful if things go wrong.

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