By Lauren Ferrone
Last updated on: March 13, 2019 at 11:24 am
Dear future self, life can take a toll on your body, especially as you age. You probably already know that from the persistent dull ache in your lower back and faint crack in your knees when you bend down.
It’s okay to feel worried. Your body is supposed to be a temple, right?
Here’s the good news: you’re not alone.
Look at your work colleague, your parents or the stranger walking down the street. No matter how old they are, chances are they share similar health concerns. So much so, that more than half of the Australian population – about 13.5 million people – have private health insurance to safeguard themselves.
Navigating the myriad of health insurance policies and understanding exactly what you’re paying for can be tricky.
Thankfully, that should change come 1 April.
No, this isn’t an April Fools’ joke
New private health reforms will be introduced to help you get your head around ‘what’s what’, and give you more choice and control when it comes to decisions about protecting your body and mind.
So, what’s the best way to get a handle on the changes headed your way?
Think of private health insurance like the Olympics. Strange analogy, but keep reading.
Part of the reforms will include 4 new tiers of cover: Gold, Silver, Bronze and Basic. As you’d expect, the higher the tier, the more hospital treatments that are covered.
If your health insurer covers a category – for example, ‘bone, joint and muscle’ or ‘heart and vascular system’ – they must cover all of the treatments in that category. This makes policies easier to compare.
Here’s a breakdown of each tier:
Basic: This level of cover is self-explanatory – it covers the bare minimum hospital treatments. It’s suitable for people looking for budget cover.
Bronze: This plan’s ideal for relatively young and healthy people who haven’t got any plans to start a family anytime soon. It can cover hospital treatments for tonsillitis and appendicitis.
Silver: This cover is suited to people with active lifestyles who might be at risk of developing back or neck injuries as a result of physically demanding careers. Dental and podiatric surgery are included.
Gold: Sitting highest on the podium, this tier is generally suited toward couples starting a family or older people requiring cover for treatments like cataracts and joint replacements.
Have you invested in yourself?
This many Australians have private health insurance:
Better access, higher excess
Aside from making it easier to pick which level of cover best suits your needs and lifestyle, there are heaps of other expected benefits that’ll come from the reforms.
Depending on which health fund you choose, there’ll be better access to mental health treatment, higher excesses in exchange for lower premiums, and discounts on hospital premiums for people aged between 18 and 29 years.
What’s more, those who need to travel long distances for hospital treatment could receive much-needed assistance to get to and from their medical appointments.
No more natural therapies
Now the not-so-good news. Under the new reforms, health insurers will no longer be able to offer benefits for some natural therapies, like yoga and Pilates, as part of ‘extras’.
Lifesaving help for less
Of all the changes though, there’s one that’ll be particularly important.
Chemotherapy and breast cancer surgery will be included in the Bronze tier, meaning no more forking out for the most expensive cover to get potentially lifesaving help if you need it.
This is a lot to take in
You’ve probably got a million questions swirling through your head: What policy will be best for me? What if I already have health insurance – will my policy be converted to the new system? Can I move treatments from one tier to another? You can find answers to some of these questions here.
I could keep writing about how the reforms might benefit or affect you but, ultimately, the changes are designed to make health cover easier to understand and more affordable.
Until then, just remember: life can take a toll on the body, but it can also be kind if you’re prepared for whatever’s around the corner.