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Coronavirus: Your health insurance questions answered

Are you covered? Can you still get it? Do you even need it? We answer all your coronavirus health insurance questions.

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Female health worker explaining medical records

Important: You don't need private health insurance to access testing or treatment for COVID-19. Medicare will cover the costs.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is causing a certain level of panic among Australians, partly because there are so many unanswered questions. We don't claim to have the answers to everything, but we can help when it comes to health insurance.

Here, we've tried our best to put your mind at ease by filling in any health insurance blanks you might have and explaining how the coronavirus could impact cover going forward.

How is Australia treating COVID-19?

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is considered a public health emergency – as such, Australia's public healthcare system is leading the charge on diagnosis and treatment.

Medicare is funding a wide range of services for people who are impacted by the coronavirus, ranging from digital GP consultations and mental health services to hospitalisation and isolation.

Will you get better care with private health insurance?

We understand it's normal to want the best healthcare in the quickest time possible, particularly if you have pre-existing medical conditions that might aggravate COVID-19.

But private health insurance won't get you better healthcare if you contract COVID-19. Anyone who is hospitalised due to coronavirus is immediately isolated. It doesn't matter whether you have public or private insurance, the level of your care will be solely decided by healthcare professionals.

"The private health insurance status of a patient who is affected by coronavirus will not determine their treatment," a Department of Health representative told Finder.

"In the case of hospital treatment, doctors and hospitals determine who receives treatment, the treatment they receive, and the timing of the treatment," he continued. "It is not determined by the government or insurers."

Even telehealth services, which have previously been a perk largely offered by private health funds, are now being made available under Medicare. On 13 March, the government introduced a new Medicare item allowing Australians to bulk-bill for video calls or phone calls to their doctor. It's designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Will private health insurance cover the cost of COVID-19?

The only thing that might change depending on whether you have private health insurance is how your treatment is ultimately paid for.

Health coverHow your treatment will be covered
You're entitled to MedicareMedicare will cover the cost
You're not entitled to Medicare but have private health insurancePrivate health insurance will likely cover the cost as long as you have served your waiting periods and have cover for lung and chest treatment.
You're not entitled to Medicare and don't have private health insuranceIt's unclear right now, but your costs may still be covered. NSW Health has already confirmed it will cover costs for coronavirus patients if they aren't entitled to Medicare and don't have private health insurance. Other states may follow.

Will coronavirus impact the cost of health insurance?

There's no way of knowing the long-term economic impact the coronavirus will have, but in the short term, your health insurance premiums should not increase.

Prices for health insurance were already set to rise on 1 April 2020, but the degree to which they're going up has already been confirmed. Other than that, you should not expect any rises.

Can you still get private health insurance?

Yes. In fact, if you've been thinking about getting private health insurance, there's no harm in doing it now. You won't pay more for your policy, but you may be able to avoid lengthy wait times for treatment – as long as your illness or injury isn't related to the coronavirus.

Where can you get help for COVID-19?

Call 1800 020 080 if you're seeking information on coronavirus (COVID-19). The helpline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you're experiencing mental health concerns or trying to support someone else, visit the Head to Health website.

Find private health insurance

More COVID-19 guides

Other quick ways to save money

Are you worried about your finances during this time? Don't forget to review your bills - spending a little time on admin, could save you over the weeks and months to come.

Here are some guides on how to save some money on your daily expenses. There are plenty of things you could do, from checking your energy rates, switching to a low-interest credit card, or simply dropping parts of your insurance that you don't need.

Picture: GettyImages

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