Step 1: Do I need health insurance?
Early to bed and early to rise may make you healthy, wealthy and wise, but does private health insurance deliver the same results?
Certainly you'll get access to elective surgery, probably with your choice of doctor, in the comfort of a private hospital without having to wait months or even years.
But private health insurance comes at a cost, even after the federal government incentive of a 30 per cent rebate on your premiums.
In Australia, the taxpayer-funded Medicare health care system covers many medical, hospital and pharmaceutical costs. Under this system you can be treated as a public patient, at no charge, in a public hospital by a doctor appointed by the hospital.
However, as a public patient, you have to wait your turn – you are at the mercy of waiting lists for doctors and procedures.
The benefits of private health insurance include a greater choice of doctor than you would get in the public system, access to a private hospital that might be more comfortable than the public one, and probably a shorter wait for some forms of elective (non-urgent) surgery.
In the public system, if you need elective rather than emergency surgery you may have to wait months or even years. But with private health insurance you may be able to have elective surgery within weeks, possibly at a time and place convenient to you.
In addition, some forms of health care are not available for free in the public system. You have to meet the costs of your regular visits to the dentist, for instance.
However, note that while you have the right to select your own doctor as a private patient, when it comes to an emergency there may be insufficient time to call the doctor of your choice.
Likewise, your choice of hospital will in reality come down to where the specialist your GP has referred you to operates – perhaps a choice of two or three hospitals.
Depending on the policy you take out, and within the annual maximum payouts set by the policy, private health insurance can cover costs such as:
- Hospital expenses (theatre fees or accommodation) in a private hospital
- Ambulance fees
- Chiropractic treatment
- Home nursing
- Physiotherapy, occupational, speech and eye therapy
- 'Complementary' therapies such as acupuncture
- Glasses and contact lenses
- Dental care
- Pharmaceutical costs