If you're considering private health insurance, you'll likely be weighing up the risk vs reward. Is the cost of health insurance worth the coverage?
In your quest to understand and weigh up the range of health-related risks that may lie in your or your family's future, medical experts are hoping to raise awareness of one that lies a little under the surface – musculoskeletal conditions.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the likelihood of arthritis, back pain, osteoporosis, hip, knee and joint problems, and other musculoskeletal conditions has grown significantly in the last 10 years.
A growing problem in Australia
"The overall hospitalisation rate for these types of conditions rose by 13 per cent between 2004-05 and 2013-14," explained AIHW spokesperson Ann Hunt.
"Hospitalisation rates increased across most musculoskeletal conditions, and dramatically across some. For example, osteoarthritis hospitalisation increased by 15 per cent, while rheumatoid arthritis hospitalisation increased by 54 per cent, and juvenile arthritis by 131 per cent."
While it's a common misnomer that arthritis only occurs in old age, the latter figure is particularly startling. It may be something you want to consider when looking into a family health insurance policy, to bolster the healthcare benefits for children and dependents.
"Rheumatoid arthritis hospitalisation increased by 54 per cent, and juvenile arthritis by 131 per cent."
The AIHW explained that the rise in juvenile arthritis hospital admissions can partly be put down to disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug treatments, which often require an overnight hospital stay.
Hip and knee replacements
As hospitalisation rates for osteoarthritis continue to rise, one of the main culprits is the increase in hip and knee replacement surgeries.
The Australian Orthopaedic Association (AOA) reports that hip replacement surgeries have grown consistently year after year, reaching 42,692 operations in 2014 – with this figure on course to be broken again by the end of 2015.
Meanwhile, 53,848 knee replacements took place last year, with similar 2015 trends expected.
We know that hip and knee replacements have steadily become more expensive in Australia, with the number of people subsequently affording treatment through private health insurance benefits also trending upwards.
Musculoskeletal conditions cannot be thought of as a mere inconvenience. Arthritis Australia explains that 37 per cent of people with arthritis say it "always" limits their ability to perform simple daily tasks, while 54 per cent say it "sometimes" does.
37 per cent of people with arthritis say it "always" limits their ability to perform simple daily tasks.
The AIHW report also identified the high rate of comorbidities in those with musculoskeletal conditions – that is, when a person is afflicted with two or more medical conditions at the same time. In particular, those with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis were found to be at high risk of cardiovascular disease, as Ms Hunt continued to explain.
"Our data show that 50 per cent of people with osteoarthritis and 42 per cent of people with rheumatoid arthritis reported having cardiovascular disease," she said.
"Studying comorbidities is important, as they can have a significant impact on those affected, making it more difficult for them to self-manage their conditions, and complicating treatment options."
When we consider that cardiovascular diseases are the cause of one-third of all deaths in Australia, and affect one in six people, the fact that the two conditions may be linked is particularly worrying.
Looking into private health insurance
If you are considering private health insurance, you won't want to break the bank. Meanwhile, it's even more important to find the level of cover that you and your family need, to avoid finding you are underinsured at the worst possible moment.
For help in finding an affordable and effective health insurance plan, HICA can help. We are independent from the health funds, so can offer experienced and impartial advice, while guiding you to a level of coverage you and your family needs.
Call us today for a chat on 1300 44 22 01.