Best Health Insurance Tips for 2012
2012 is looking to be an interesting and perhaps even exciting year for Australian health care. There are many options available for excellent health care and many health funds competing for your dollars, upping the quality and bringing it within reach of Australians who want a superior health experience.
Private Health Insurance Rebate
Although debate continues to stir regarding the government Private Health Insurance Rebate, you can still cash in on this rebate. This is a tremendous incentive for Australians to purchase policies from private health funds. The government will give back a full 30% of the cost of health fund membership for those who take one out. For anyone that can afford it, taking advantage of the government rebate allows you to get high quality care without spending too much.
Medicare offers an adequate level of coverage for someone who doesn’t make a lot of use of the heath care system. However, public health insurance is lacking for a high percentage of the population, especially for those who want extra coverage in niche areas such as dentistry, reconstructive surgery or infertility. People that don’t opt for private coverage may be hit for large sums of money if a serious medical problem arises and the public health system doesn’t cover it.
In addition, even for those who require only minor services, having access to private doctors and hospitals affords them the ability to choose their preferred providers and care. When you factor in the 30% rebate mentioned earlier, private health care becomes a more affordable way to get peace of mind about treatment costs.
The Medicare levy is a fact of life for Australians who earn a living. Although the one percent deducted from their incomes is not within their control, it allows them to take advantage of a highly sophisticated public system that gives all citizens access to health care that would otherwise be prohibitive for many people.
In addition to the levy, there is a 1.5% surcharge added on for people who opt not to register for private health insurance. This, in addition to the private health insurance rebate, is to stimulate more people to purchase private health policies. Why pay the extra surcharge when instead, you can purchase a health policy that provides takes care of your financial obligations in your moment of need?
Obviously, it’s not quite that simple and each person must come to their own decisions about what fits into their budget. The government, however, is certainly encouraging the use of private health funds, and it is trying to meet the needs of all Australians while keeping budgetary constraints in mind.
Health Insurance Comparison
Still not sure if private health insurance is right for you? To evaluate your options and get the best sense of what’s available, compare health insurance funds. Each fund offers a unique package of products and services that suit different customer needs. Often they can be customized, so if you don’t see exactly what you want, you can perhaps still get it by asking the insurer to prepare a custom package.
To properly assess each fund, you can find a lot of information online. Most insurers are proactive about recruiting new consumers and provide a wealth of information about their products and services. They also have telephone representatives available to answer your questions and market the health fund services to potential customers. As more Australians are being courted to purchase private health care, funds are in heavy competition to attract them as customers, and are providing better services and competitive pricing to entice them to join.
Switch as Necessary
If you already have a private health policy, review and reconsider. Since funds are actively recruiting new customers, they are constantly improving their offerings and pricing. What was a good deal last year may have been outdone by much better ones in 2012. Compare health insurance funds to find out what’s being offered this year and if your current policy matches the advantages of other available funds.
Frequently Asked Questions About Health Insurance
There are three types of health insurance in Australia. They are:
- Hospital Cover
- Extras Cover (also known as general or ancillary cover)
- Ambulance Cover
Hospital cover can ensure any unexpected surgeries, treatments or hospital stays you may require will be covered. With appropriate cover you will have the flexibility to choose your own doctor and the option of receiving treatment in a private hospital. Most hospital covers allow you to stay in a private room. One other perk is skipping the public hospital systems’ waiting list, which can be lengthy for non emergency treatment.
Extras cover pays benefits for a a range of services, often including treatments and procedures related to the fullowing:
- Dental/oral health
- Glasses and contact lenses
- Remedial massage
- Hearing aids
- Travel vaccinations
Ambulance cover, as the name suggests, will cover you should you require emergency ambulance transport. In an emergency, there is enough to worry about. Having the expenses covered for provides security and peace of mind. Many hospital covers include emergency ambulance transport If yours doesn’t, you will need to shop for this separately.
Life is unpredictable. You never know when you might need cover. No matter what life stage you’re in, there’s a policy out there for everyone. You can select as much or as little cover as you want, depending on your health needs and requirements. It’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind health cover provides.
There is no one answer here. Costs vary across providers and policy types. Just because a policy is cheap, that does not mean it is ‘value for money’ and vise versa. Make sure you check what’s included and excluded in a policy before signing up, as you want to purchase a policy that best fits your specific needs.
Premium: A premium is the price you pay for your insurance policy (it may be paid annually or on an ongoing basis).
Policy: An insurance plan. In other words, it is the type of insurance you choose to select.
Policy Holder: The owner, or ‘holder’ of a policy.
Claim: In the event that you require treatment for a service covered by your policy, you can lodge a claim for reimbursement of all or part of the cost of that treatment.. These days, most claims are submitted electronically by the health care provider (dentist, physio etc)
Lifetime Health Cover: Lifetime Health Cover was put in place to encourage young Australians to seek out and maintain ownership of private health insurance early in their lives. If you do not take out a policy before you turn 31, extra charges will be applied should you take out a policy at a later time.
This means you will pay a 2% loading on top of your premium for every year that passes after you turn 30. For example, if you take out a policy for the first time at age 32, you will be charged 4% of your premium as an extra, then at age 40, 20% and so on, up to a maximum loading of 70%.
The loading is payable for 10 consecutive years of cover - after which it is removed and you premiums will be reduced.
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS): Medicare offers assistance for Australians with many of their their prescribed medication costs through the PBS. This assistance is in the form of subsidies towards the cost of many medications. You can check if your prescribed medication is on the list of subsidised items here.
Medicare Levy Surcharge: The Medicare Levy Surcharge is an additional charge (tax) applied to single Australian taxpayers who earn over the income threshold of $90,000 per year, or families/couples who earn over $180,000 per year. This surcharge is only applied to those who choose not to have a private health insurance policy.
The surcharge is designed to reduce pressure on the public health system by encouraging those with higher incomes to invest in private health cover.
Private Health Insurance Rebate: The government’s Private Health Insurance rebate lowers premiums for most Australians with private health insurance Older Australians may enjoy an even higher rebate. Our calculator can help you estimate the Government health insurance rebate you may receive.
Disclaimer: The above information is correct and current at the time of publication
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