Health and wellbeing is a central pillar in the lives of many Australians. However, it's not something that will necessarily look after itself in the long term. Even the fittest, most active and dietary-aware people can occasionally be afflicted by illness that requires thorough and effective treatment.
Consequently, private health insurance can prove to be the savvy choice, but the meaning of the word 'private' in the eyes of some health funds may not be as far reaching as others. In fact, the restrictions on many people's policies mean that the potential for private care can often be limited.
The amount of policies offering full private cover has decreased by over 6 per cent since 2012.
A potential scrapping
There have been calls for the government to step in and stop those health funds that don't offer enough distinction or explanation of when their customers may have to be treated in a public hospital, under their private health insurance policy.
"The whole rationale of the rebate was to reward people who took care of their own healthcare costs … and to take the pressure off the health system. Yet we are increasingly seeing people don't get the cover that would enable them to use the private system," explained Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) Chief Executive Michael Roff, as quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald.
In fact, Mr Roff went on to explain that the amount of policies offering what is generally considered to be full private cover had fallen from 52.5 to 46 per cent over the last 36 months.
Developing an understanding
While this issue is a point of contention, what's the next step for those with existing private health insurance policies that want to find out more? Well, it's a case of getting savvy with policies and following the best practices highlighted by industry bodies.
For example, the APHA has an extensive checklist that policy holders should assess to understand whether their private health insurance will actually grant them treatment in a private hospital. Three of the most important points to keep in mind are:
- Check your policy statement carefully and regularly: Be sure to go over any exclusions with your insurer and get a better understanding of exactly what you are and aren't covered for.
- Review your Standard Information Statement (SIS): Health funds are required by law to compose these accurately, and you can even use your SIS to compare policies to one another.
- Assess your policy: It can be easy to continually renew a policy without checking the details, but it may not be perfectly suited to your needs if circumstances have changed.
Further research from APHA, and discussed by the Sydney Morning Herald, suggested that only 40 per cent of private health insurance policy holders are fully aware of what their coverage does and doesn't include.
"Often [the policies] have so many exclusions that [holders] can't access a private hospital and can only use it in the public system," concluded Mr Roff.
HICA is here to help
Private health insurance can be a complex topic, and the statistics suggest that the wider public are unaware of how to get the most from their policies, and of the nuances of what their health funds actually provide.
HICA can offer an end-to-end consultation on what policies are available, and ultimately help you get coverage that is perfectly suited to your needs. If you'd like to learn more about the ins and outs of private health insurance, talk things through today with one of our experts on 1300 44 22 01.