We all strive to age well, but no matter how healthy you feel, there’s no guarantee you won’t need hospitalisation for an injury or surgery for a medical condition later on.
Luckily, if you do need emergency surgery, Australia has one of the best public healthcare systems in the world - Medicare. But if the surgery you need is elective (not an emergency) you could face the risk of a long waiting list. That’s why the Government urges all Australians to take out private health insurance. Not only does private health insurance ease the pressure on Medicare right now, it will help with the increased numbers of seniors needing care and support in the next few decades.
According to industry peak body Private Healthcare Australia, between now and 2050, the number of older people (aged 65 -84) will more than double and the number of very old people (85 and over) will more than quadruple, from 0.4 million today to 1.8 million.
For seniors, private health insurance is not only a Government incentive, it can also offer a lot of benefits. It can cover all or most of your treatment costs, give you more choice around healthcare providers and enable you to skip the public hospital waiting list so you get treated sooner.
Choose a comprehensive level of cover
As a senior, you have different needs for health insurance than a younger individual. But it can be difficult to know what you should have covered by a policy. That’s why it’s a good idea to choose a comprehensive level of hospital cover and extras cover for common health conditions that affect seniors.
Always read through the fine print carefully, or have a family member help you so you know what you’re covered for and what you’re not. If you find out later you need treatment for a condition that is excluded or restricted, then you’ll have to pay out of pocket for the cost yourself. There’s also no point in paying for healthcare you won’t actually need.
Skip public waiting lists
Did you know that there’s a 196 day wait for a knee replacement through the public system? If you’re in pain and have restricted mobility, you don’t want to wait over six months for surgery.
This is why there’s been a 41 percent increase in knee replacement surgeries done privately. Skipping the public waiting list means you can get surgery quicker, start physical therapy sooner, and get back to enjoying retirement.
Choose the doctor or surgeon you want
With private health insurance you may be able to have more choices in your healthcare provider. For instance, if there’s a specific surgeon or hospital you want to use for your treatment. However, you still need to check if they are one of your private health insurer’s agreed providers. If they don’t have an arrangement, then it can mean you will still have to pay out-of-pocket expenses.
If you choose to have extras cover, as a senior you can take advantage of preventative therapies to keep fit and well, like:
Naturopathy, and more
In fact, according to consumer advocacy group Choice, people aged between 55 - 79 use their extras cover more than any other age group, with an average benefit per person of over $600.
Plenty of cover options to choose from
With so many private health insurance companies in Australia, it’s a competitive industry. The benefit of this is that it gives lots of choice for seniors.
Online comparison websites, such as Members Own are useful tools to help you shop around so you know you’re getting the best deal. Be sure to make note of what is included and excluded, so you can find a policy that meets your needs.
Affordable private health cover
When it comes to paying for private health insurance, seniors can benefit here as well.
If you’re over the age of 65, and not earning a certain amount ($140,001 or more for singles, and $280,001 and over for families, single parents and couples) you’re entitled to a rebate on your premium.
Peace of mind
Many seniors worry about falling ill, getting injured, and not having the money to pay for treatment. Private health insurance provides reassurance for you and your family that you can receive the treatment you need, when you need it, without having to wait.
Depending on your level of cover, your healthcare insurer can pay for all or most of your treatment costs. This means you can avoid the stress of paying large medical bills and concentrate on your recovery instead.
When you consider all the benefits of private health insurance, it makes sense to think about it, especially as reliance on healthcare services tends to increase as we age.