Health Insurance

Compare Australia's trusted health funds in one place with Savvy and save on your health insurance.

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, updated on October 20th, 2023       

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Health Insurance Banner

We’ve partnered with Compare Club to bring you a range of health insurance policies to help you compare them side by side.

Australia is often said to have one of the best health systems in the world, with the Commonwealth Fund ranking us third overall among 11 high-income countries in a 2021 report. On top of Medicare, private health insurance can give you access to some of the best hospitals and doctors available, among a wide range of other covered benefits.

Savvy can help you compare health insurance policies from a some of Australia's leading insurers in one place. By answering a few simple questions about the cover you’re after, our comparison service can present offers side-by-side with cost, benefits, inclusions outlined for you to compare and choose the right policy in few minutes. Get the process started with Savvy today.

What is private health insurance and how does it work?

Private health insurance is a form of insurance which can assist you with the cost of medical treatment and care and can cover treatments which aren’t included under Medicare. The best policies can also help you avoid long public hospital waiting lists for required treatment, including surgery. It can also offer you options to choose which doctor you see, and which hospital you stay in to receive your treatment, as well as covering you for additional health costs, such as ambulance cover.

There are three basic types of health insurance available in Australia:

  1. Hospital cover (which can include cover for costs associated with in-hospital treatment)
  2. Extras cover (which can include cover for out-of-hospital treatments not covered by Medicare, such as dental work)
  3. Combined hospital and extras cover (which can offer protections for both these types of cover combined)

The cost of your health insurance will depend on the level of coverage you choose to take out and the medical treatments you wish to be covered for (among other factors). If you choose hospital cover, for instance, there are generally four different levels you can choose from, ranging from the cheapest to the most expensive policies. These are:

  1. Basic cover – which usually offers cover for very limited hospital services, such as psychiatric services, rehabilitation and palliative care
  2. Bronze cover – which often includes the same cover as a basic policy, with additional cover typically offered for up to 18 further clinical categories
  3. Silver cover – which is another step up from bronze cover, potentially offering cover for as many as 29 further clinical categories
  4. Gold cover – the highest level of cover available, which can offer top cover for all clinical categories

Each health insurer may have a different way of describing the tiers of cover they provide, with names such as ‘silver plus’ used to describe their levels. However, the same principle applies to all funds: the more options covered, the higher the cost of the insurance will probably be.

What is usually included and excluded from health insurance? 

Hospital cover

Hospital cover, as its name suggests, covers treatment from doctors and specialists which are provided in a hospital setting. It may cover the following areas:

  • Consultations with doctors, specialists and anaesthetists
  • Tests administered whilst you’re in hospital or undergoing surgery
  • Cost of surgery or other treatments
  • Specified allied health services such as psychiatrists, psychologists and pain management specialists
  • Ambulance cover*

*Not included in all hospital cover. Ambulance cover differs between states and territories, with some providing free cover to residents for transport within their state or nationally. Check with your state ambulance provider or health insurer for details of any cover offered.

What isn’t included under hospital cover?

Some of the items which are commonly excluded by hospital insurance include:

  • GP visits (for which part of the cost is covered by Medicare, less any gap that is charged)
  • Cost of visiting a public hospital emergency department (which is also covered by Medicare)
  • Most x-rays, MRIs, CT scans and blood tests which are performed on outpatients
  • Medical procedures not considered medically necessary (such as breast augmentation or liposuction purely for cosmetic purposes)
Extras cover

This may offer cover for treatments given outside of a hospital setting which aren’t covered by Medicare. Many preventative and remedial forms of treatment are covered by this type of insurance, which may include:

  • Dentistry and major dental surgery
  • Orthodontics (such as braces or aligners)
  • Optometry (lenses, glasses and frames)
  • Non-PBS pharmaceuticals (medicine and drugs not listed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, so not subsidised by Medicare)
  • Psychology (and other treatments for mental health conditions)
  • Dietetics – including assistance with nutrition, diet and weight loss programs
  • Gym memberships – offered by some health funds and subject to conditions
  • Vaccinations – particularly if you’re travelling overseas and require less common vaccinations such as typhoid
  • Supply and fitting of hearing aids
  • Physiotherapy, other manual therapies and exercise programs
  • Chiropractic treatment to assist with back or spinal issues
  • Podiatry (treating any foot or ankle conditions)

What isn’t included under extras cover?

The treatments which aren’t routinely covered by extras health cover will vary between different health insurance providers and the level of cover chosen, but may include:

  • Laser eye surgery
  • Some alternative medicines and therapies
  • Hypnotherapy

The amount of benefits or rebates available under extras cover will be limited to a set dollar amount per year. How much that limit is will depend on the level of cover you choose to purchase. For example, under a cheaper extras cover policy, you may be covered for up to $800 for major dental work, but if you choose a more expensive policy, you may be covered for up to $2,500 instead.

All health funds will have different inclusions, exclusions and limits, as well as terms and conditions surrounding the treatment or other expenses you’re claiming for. As such, it’s important to compare health insurance policies carefully before deciding which one is right for you or your family. Savvy makes this process simple by enabling you to receive a range of health insurance quotes online for you to compare side-by-side.

How do I compare health insurance policies?

There are many areas you should compare before deciding which health insurance policy is the most appropriate one for your situation. Look at these different aspects when comparing policies side-by-side with Savvy before making your choice:

What’s covered that you’ll use?

This is the main thing to consider when deciding which form of insurance to buy. Think about the health care treatment you have needed in the past three years and choose a level of cover you feel comfortable with which offers inclusions you may need.

For example, if you have 20:20 vision and are relatively young, you may not wish to pay for laser eye correction surgery cover. If you’re a single male, your interest in pregnancy cover may be very limited! Match the insurance you buy to the services you’ll actually use.

Check for vital exclusions

As well as being sure what is covered by the health insurance policy, also check the exclusions to make sure nothing vital you need is left out. For example, if you live with Type 1 diabetes, you may not want to consider a health insurance policy which excludes cover for the cost of an insulin pump or blood glucose monitoring devices.

How much can you afford?

Your level of income and expenses will determine the level of health cover that you’re able to afford. Not everyone can afford gold hospital cover, which is why there’s a range of policies available to suit different budgets. Balance the cost of health insurance per month against the potential costs you could face if you don’t have cover.

For example, if you don’t have ambulance cover and have to be taken to hospital, you may face a bill for thousands of dollars for your brief ambulance trip (depending on where you live and the nature of the accident).

What health facilities are available in your area?

Those who live in rural and remote areas of Australia may have fewer options for their health care than others who live in one of our major cities. If you’re lucky enough to have a choice of several private hospitals nearby, private hospital cover may allow you to choose where you receive your treatment.

However, if you live in a remote area where there aren’t any private health facilities, this type of cover may be less useful if you wish to have your medical treatment close to home.

Types of health insurance

Why compare health insurance through Savvy?

The pros and cons of health insurance

PROS

Beat the waiting lists

Having private health cover may offer you the opportunity to skip public hospital queues and get the surgery you need when you want it.

Choose your doctor

As a private patient, you’ll usually be able to choose the doctor you see or the surgeon who performs your operation (subject to availability).

Choose your hospital

The doctor or surgeon you’ve chosen to see may operate out of several locations, so you may be able to choose which hospital you’re admitted to in order to have your treatment or surgery if it’s able to accommodate you.

Save on treatments not covered by Medicare

There are many treatments (for example, dental surgery) which aren’t covered by Medicare, but which could be covered by your private hospital cover, potentially saving you thousands of dollars if you’re covered.

Possibly have your own room

If you have private health insurance, you may be able to choose to have a room to yourself when you go in for your scheduled surgery. However, this will depend on the level of cover you have and the facilities available in the hospital you’re admitted to.

Avoid the Medicare Levy Surcharge

The Medicare Levy Surcharge (MLS) is an additional levy imposed on Australian taxpayers who don’t have private health insurance and earn over $90,000 p.a. for a single person, or $180,000 for a couple. It starts at 1% of your income and goes up to 1.5% on a sliding scale.

CONS

Cost

Health insurance does cost money each month, which can seem like an additional burden if you don’t need to use your insurance for an extended period.

Exclusions

Private health insurance may not cover 100% of the cost of your medical treatment due to exclusions or limits on your policy or gap fees charged. A gap fee is what your medical practitioner charges over the amount your health insurer and Medicare refunds to you.

Waiting periods

If you’re taking out health insurance for the first time or are upgrading to a higher level of coverage, there may be waiting periods which apply before you can make your first claim. For some major hospital treatments, the waiting period may be up to 12 months, while for more minor expenses, such as physiotherapy, it may only be two months. However, from time to time, health funds run offers which waive waiting periods on certain extras. Savvy and our partners can help you find and compare these offers online before you buy.

Excess and co-payments

You can reduce your premiums by electing to pay an excess and/or co-payment if you’re hospitalised.  If that’s an option you’ve chosen, each time you make a claim on your hospital cover, you may be required to pay an excess, or daily co-payment towards the cost of your hospital stay.

What factors will affect how much my health insurance costs?

Top tips on how to maximise the benefits of your health insurance

Review your insurance needs regularly

If you haven’t looked at your health insurance recently, you may be surprised at how policies have changed since you last gave your health insurance its own health check. Regularly review your level of cover to make sure you’re still getting the best deal.

Work out your health cover budget

Most people pay their health insurance premiums per month, so work out what you can afford based on your household income per month, less the regular costs associated with keeping a roof over your head and buying food and essentials.

Write a priority list for your family

Think about your family’s health needs and write a list of the types of coverage which it needs as a priority. Make sure each of these priority items is covered in the policy you choose so you don't find yourself without the cover you're looking for.

Compare policies through Savvy

Comparing health insurance policies is an essential step to take before you buy your coverage. Doing so through Savvy and getting a range of free quotes can help give you a realistic idea of what your insurance may cost and the likely inclusions.

More of your frequently asked questions about health insurance

Will treatment for pre-existing conditions be covered by my new health insurance policy?

Treatment for pre-existing conditions can be covered, although there may be waiting periods you have to serve before you can claim for the cost of treatment of pre-existing conditions if you’re buying a new policy or upgrading to a higher level of cover. Such waiting periods can range from two months to a year.

Can health insurance offer cover for pregnancy and birth?

Hospital insurance can offer cover for pregnancy, but this is usually only included with more expensive policies. In addition, if you are planning an addition to your family, it is important to plan in advance, as there may be a 12-month waiting period before obstetrics services can be claimed on a new policy.

Will my children be covered for dental treatment under our family policy?

This will depend on the cover you’ve taken out for your family policy. Most extras health cover does offer cover for dental treatment, but you should read the Private Health Information Statement (PHIS) and any other terms and conditions set by your insurer to make sure you know exactly what is and isn’t covered, and any annual limits which may apply.

Will I have to pay the hospital excess every time I make a claim?

No – an excess only applies to hospital cover and many policies don’t require you to pay the excess if you’re admitted to hospital after an accident or in an emergency. However, you should always check with your insurer so you know exactly what the situation is with the policy you have in place.

Are there any tax benefits available with private health insurance?

Yes – you won’t have to pay the Medicare Levy Surcharge (MLS) if you hold eligible private hospital cover. However, if your income for MLS purposes is above the income threshold and you’ve held an eligible hospital cover for part of the year, you’ll have to pay the MLS for the part of the year you didn't have eligible hospital cover. Additionally, if you've held hospital cover for the full year but temporarily suspended your cover (such as to travel overseas), you’ll have to pay the MLS for the suspended days. However, the cost of health insurance isn’t tax-deductible (other than the government’s private health insurance rebate), unlike other forms of insurance.

If I am hospitalised due to COVID-19, will my health insurance cover the cost?

If you suddenly become ill due to COVID-19, Medicare can cover the cost of your public hospital stay and treatment. However, if you choose to be treated in a private hospital (if there’s a private hospital in your area that accepts COVID-19 patients), you should check with your health insurance provider, as there may be limitations or conditions which apply to your situation.

Can I purchase health insurance as a temporary resident of Australia?

There’s a type of insurance called Overseas Visitors Health Cover, which is specially designed to offer private health protection to overseas students, travellers, temporary visitors or visa holders who are residents of Australia. This type of policy offers cover to those who aren’t covered by Medicare under a reciprocal health care arrangement with their country of birth. Check with your insurer whether you qualify for this type of insurance before paying for a policy.

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Disclaimer:

Savvy is partnered with Compare Club Australia Pty Ltd (AFS representative number 001279036) of Alternative Media Pty Ltd (AFS License number 486326) to provide readers with a variety of health insurance policies to compare. Savvy earns a commission from Compare Club each time a customer buys a health insurance policy via our website. We don’t arrange for products to be purchased from these brands directly, as all purchases are conducted via Compare Club.

Savvy’s comparison service is provided by Compare Club. Compare Club compares selected products from a panel of trusted insurers and does not compare all products in the market.

Any advice presented above or on other pages is general in nature and doesn’t consider your personal or business objectives, needs or finances. It’s always important to consider whether advice is suitable for you before purchasing an insurance policy.

For any further information on the variety of insurers compared by Compare Club or how their business works, you can read their Financial Services Guide.