What are the best hospital insurance policies for singles and couples?
Health funds often advertise policies to singles and couples that have very low cover and help purely with avoiding tax and surcharges.
We warn against these "junk" insurance policies as they usually don't cover treatments in private hospital for the most common serious diseases such as cancer, stroke or heart disease, and won't give you access to private rehabilitation facilities in case of an accident or private psychiatric facilities in case of a mental illness. The cover they do provide is, in many cases, questionable; for example, the accident cover can expire before treatments are finished.
If you're thinking about taking out low-cover health insurance, take our easy quiz to find out if you need health insurance at all: Do I need health insurance?
Is it cheaper to take out a policy with my partner?
Generally, the cost of a Couples policy is twice that of a Singles policy, so you usually don't save money by getting a Couples policy. You may also have different needs to your partner, with one of you wanting more cover than the other, so in that case separate policies would probably save you money.
The main benefit of sharing a Couples policy is the convenience of having the one policy and insurance provider.
We don't have kids yet but want to – do we need to take out a family policy?
If you're planning a family and you wish to be covered for birth-related services, you need to get insurance well ahead of time – health funds impose a 12-month waiting period before you can claim on these. While public hospitals provide very good birth-related services, with private cover you can choose your own obstetrician, and private hospital facilities can be more comfortable. See Do I need health insurance to have a baby?
Once you're pregnant, check with your health fund on when to upgrade to a Family policy if you want your baby to have private health cover from birth. You generally need to have a Family policy one to three months before they're born, but some health funds require up to 12 months.
It's a good idea to upgrade sooner rather than later – and a Family policy usually won't cost you more than a Couples policy, as kids in two parent families are covered for free.
So, will your baby need hospital insurance straight away? If you have an uncomplicated birth and your baby is healthy, they usually won't get admitted to hospital and you probably wouldn't need cover for them.
But if your baby is born early, has any health issues or you have twins, for example, they may get admitted to the special care nursery or even intensive care. If the baby gets admitted as a private patient, this can cost thousands of dollars without cover.
We don't want (any more) children – can we get cheaper health cover?
A few health funds offer cover without pregnancy, but it's usually (at best) a few dollars cheaper than the best-value top-cover policies you can get. Some policies with restrictions (such as no pregnancy cover) are even more expensive than other policies that cover all services covered by Medicare.
There's an added risk. If you downgrade your cover to cover without pregnancy, your policy may restrict some other treatments as well. There are two types of restrictions:
- You can only go to a public hospital as a private patient (i.e. no cover in a private hospital) for treatment of the condition.
- Treatment for the condition is excluded altogether.
Even though you might be happy to take out a policy that restricts conditions you think you won't need – for example, pregnancy, fertility treatment, sterilisation and gastric banding. keep in mind that with these kinds of policies, health funds can change – and add – to the procedures that they exclude or restrict.
So, unless you keep on track of all the material the fund sends you, and regularly check your policy, you might find yourself without cover for something you'll actually need. Which is why you might be better off with a policy that covers everything, as funds are much less likely to add restrictions to those.
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