Private health insurance
Shop around for the best deal on your private health cover. Make sure you’re getting value for money and the cover that you want. Every private health fund has different options so, work out what you want and then get multiple quotes for the cover.
Then weigh up the options that each fund offers. This includes any member benefit discounts and other services that are included with a fund.
The bare minimum you should look for is private hospital cover, and possibly some dental cover. You can use some of the health insurance aggregation services like iSelect, HelpMeChoose and Choosi.
And how you pay is also important, as some funds offer discounts when direct debit is used. While others allow for quite extensive pre-payment, up to and beyond 18 months in some cases, which can lock in existing pricing.
If you’re up for a spreadsheet challenge, itemise the cost for just hospital cover and the excesses you may pay. Then, get quotes with hospital plus extras. Subtract the ‘hospital only quote’ from the ‘hospitals and extras quote’. This gives you the cost of the extras.
Then, add in a column for the potential rebates that you’ll get on the additional covers such as remedial massage, physiotherapy, naturopathy and others.
Then, look at the cost of those services and consider how likely are you to use them? Is the cost of the extras worth the amount you’ll get in rebates?
Even if you do think you will need extra health services, are you better off paying for that service when you need it rather than bundling into your insurance cover on the off chance you need it?
For example, say the extras cost an extra $800 a year on top of hospital cover. Say you visit a physiotherapist for regular treatment. The each visit costs you $75, and you get a $30 rebate for the first six visits in each year. This means you will spend $450 and get back $180. You will be out of pocket $270. But, you’ve also spent $800 to be able to get back the rebate. Plus, it’s likely you’ll need more visits to the physiotherapist than the six that are eligible for a rebate.
If you look at the math, are you better off not getting the extras? You would get to keep the extra $800, and getting eight physiotherapy appointments.
If you are likely to use a variety of different extra medical services, say physiotherapy, optical and a dietician, then paying for extras cover may indeed be worthwhile.
It’s time consuming to gather the data for these calculations but, in the long run, making informed judgments about the cover that you buy can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars over time.
Private health insurance preferred suppliers
Check to see if your private health insurer has preferred suppliers. These are medical specialists (e.g. Obstetricians) and ancillary services (e.g. Physiotherapy) that bill only, or just above, the amount the insurer will pay as a rebate to you.
This will save your out of pocket expenses if there is little to no gap between the cost of the services and the private health insurer rebate.
Believe it or not, there are still some general practices that bulk bill. This means that they take their payment directly from Medicare and you have no out of pocket expenses.
There are also radiology, pathology and other services that also bulk bill. If you need to use any of these services for x-rays, CT Scans or blood tests, ask your GP if there is a bulk billing service in your area.
When you visit the pharmacy you will often be asked if you will accept a generic version of what you have been prescribed by your doctor.
Generic medicines are non-branded versions of a particular drug. Think Panadol (a brand name) versus paracetamol (the actual drug). Many companies produce paracetamol under their own brands. Even pharmacies sell their own brand of this over the counter painkiller.
The same applies for prescription medicines. The generic versions are often cheaper than their brand name counterparts, as there are no marketing or drug development costs loaded into the price.
For more information on generic medicines and how it works to save you money while still giving you the same medical benefits, read our article: Why generic medicines.
Health care cards
If you are entitled to a health care card, then use it! If you receive payments from Centrelink you are entitled to have a Healthcare Card.
The card entitles you to discounts on prescription medicines and additional subsidies with on doctor’s fees.
Even if you don’t receive Centrelink payments you may still be entitled to having a Healthcare card.
If you are a single person and earn less than $483 a week, you are probably eligible for a Healthcare card. Further information about qualifying for a card can be found at Centrelink.
Keep your receipts
If you spend more than $2,000 a year in out of pocket expenses on prescription medication and essential medical services, you can claim the amount over $2,000 on your annual income tax return.
That is, say you spend $2,300. You can claim $300 on your tax refund.
So, keep your receipts for all expenses and tally them up in June each year. If in doubt, talk to your Accountant.
The best way to save money on your health is to keep healthy so you don’t have to spend more in the long term!
And as Rod Stewart, unexpectedly, discovered it's important to have regular check-ups with your GP. If something is detected that needs treatment, try to treat it early.
The healthier you keep yourself, the less likely you are to need significant medical treatments.
So, quit smoking, manage your weight and enjoy a healthy life! Oh, and don’t forget to brush your teeth.
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The views in this article are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Telstra BigPond. Any advice or information contained in this article and website is of a general nature only and is not intended to constitute or replace medical or professional advice. Please seek advice from your medical or healthcare practitioner concerning any treatment options. Any quoted prices are intended to be indicative only.