Do I still need health insurance?

With the Government having signed off on private health insurance premium increases that will start from 1 April, Tom would like to know if it’s worthwhile having cover now he’s on the Age Pension.

Q. Tom
I am wondering if I should keep my health insurance cover now that I receive the Age Pension. With the increases adding about $75 to what I’m paying already, I’m not sure I can afford to remain covered. If I cancel it, I would like to know the consequences in regard to my healthcare entitlements and the Age Pension.

A. It’s always a good idea to review your insurance cover regularly, as your health and financial positions do change. However, giving up health insurance altogether could prove to be a costly mistake. Without private health insurance you will only be entitled to healthcare as provided by the state. This can often mean long waiting lists, care in public hospitals and limited access to extras such as dental, physiotherapy and podiatry. Which services you lose will depend on the level of cover you currently have. 

As pensioners, you can use your Pensioner Concession Card to access low cost prescriptions under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and Medicare will also entitle you to bulk billing for many services. You can also access screening programs and special health services. For further details, you should visit the Department of Human Services.

If you do decide to give up your private healthcare, you may find it difficult to get cover at a later date due to pre-existing medical conditions and waiting lists. Before you give up your cover, it is worth working out what areas you think you will need in future and which ones you can do without. Many policies cover things such as prenatal and maternity, alternative therapies and expensive extras which you may never use. 

There are many websites around that will enable you to compare the different policies available but be careful, as many will ask for a contact number and then bombard you with phone calls. The best one to start with is PrivateHealth.gov.au and once you’re sure of the cover you need and the insurer you want, you can then ask for a direct quote. 

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Written by Debbie McTaggart

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