Private health insurance: one of the most confusing consumer products in Australia. Well, in case you thought you had your head around the intricacies of private health, we're here to throw you another curve ball.
So, you know that there are four different tiers of hospital cover, right? If you didn't, they're Basic, Bronze, Silver and Gold. And then of course there's Basic Plus, Bronze Plus and Silver Plus – because why would the industry want to make health insurance simple and easy to understand?
Here's the deal: if you want to buy health insurance for financial reasons (because you earn more than $90,000 per year, or to avoid being slugged with the Lifetime Health Cover loading, for instance), then a Basic policy is the way to go. It'll prevent you from having to pay extra tax but won't cost you a fortune.
Sounds simple, yes? Well, not quite. Our health insurance experts trawled the data and found that in NSW/ACT, NT, SA and Tasmania, some Basic policies are actually more expensive than Bronze policies – which means you'll pay more money for less cover. Not cool.
In Queensland, Victoria and WA, Basic policies are all cheaper than Bronze policies – but some only by a few dollars so it's still worth comparing.
So, what should you do if you're thinking of buying one of these poor-value Basic policies? You have two options:
1. Don't do it! Find a cheaper Basic policy and buy that instead.
- Here's everything you need to know about Basic policies, plus the cheapest Basic policies, state by state.
2. Buy a cheap Bronze policy that will cost you less than an overpriced Basic policy but give you some cover.
- Bronze policies cover you for essential services like breast and prostate cancer surgery, and treatment for strokes.
- Here's the skinny on Bronze policies, plus the best Bronze policies, state by state.
All of these Basic policies are accident policies: they cover accidents and ambulance.
The government also requires them to cover rehabilitation, palliative care and psychiatric care in a public hospital. This doesn't mean much – you can choose your own doctor, but it's very hard to get a place in a public hospital for these services.
And accident policies can be very restrictive and hard to claim on. Bear in mind that if you're in a serious accident, you'll still receive excellent care as a public patient in a public hospital.
As for ambulance cover, whether you need it or not depends on where you live.
- In Tasmania and Queensland, the state government covers the cost of ambulance trips.
- In NSW, ACT and the Perth metro area, you'll need health insurance to be covered for ambulance.
- In the NT, South Australia, Victoria and rural WA, you can buy a state ambulance subscription or get ambulance cover through private health insurance.
So in Tasmania, Medibank's 'Accident and Ambulance' policy doesn't, in fact, cover ambulance, as that's provided by the state government.
- Still confused about these kinds of policies? Read our explainer on accident and ambulance cover.