health insurance for senior

Seniors health insurance

Don’t get left on a public hospital waiting list; get seniors health insurance and skip the queues.

Protect your savings and your health by finding a seniors health insurance policy that doesn’t break the bank.

Use Finder’s comparison tool to compare hundreds of policies side-by-side so you’re only paying for benefits you need, such as cover for joint replacement, cardiology and other hospital costs, without paying for anything unnecessary like cover for pregnancy.

If you’re ready to dive in, here are a quick couple of tips for using the comparison tool below:

  • When asked “What's most important to you?”, select “Better Cover” from the drop-down menu
  • Complete the rest of the questionnaire, which includes telling us “Who needs cover”, the “Type of cover” and your “Postcode or suburb”
  • Once you’ve hit “Search Policies” and are on the results page, filter your results by selecting the services that are important to you such as “Heart surgery”, “Joint replacement” and “Pre-existing conditions”

Compare health insurance quotes for seniors in just a few clicks

Review costs, compare cover and apply online.

Are you switching health funds or getting a policy for the first time?

Before going any further, it’s important to know whether you’re getting cover for the first time or looking to change health funds. Which situation best describes you?

What should you consider before you switch?

If you’ve already got cover and you’re looking to switch funds, you’ll need to ask yourself why you’re switching. Are you trying to save money or have your needs changed?

  • Are you trying to save money? If you’re trying to save money, make sure it’s not to the detriment of your cover. If you’ve had a policy for a while, your benefit levels may be higher than those offered on newer products. Before you switch to any policy, make sure you’ve compared those limits to make sure you’re not locking yourself into a worse product. What you’re saving yourself in the short term by switching to a cheaper policy could end up costing you more in the long run.
  • Have your needs changed? As you get older, your health insurance needs change. You may have been on a top hospital policy, with pregnancy, which you no longer need. Conversely, you may have had a basic policy, which does not serve your growing needs.

What about waiting periods?

The good news is you won’t have to re-serve any waiting periods for items that your previous policy covered. However, if the policy you’re switching to has higher benefit limits or cover for treatments not covered by your original policy, you will have to serve those waiting periods.

Do seniors need health insurance or is Medicare good enough?

We’re lucky to live in a country where everyone has access to hospital cover with little to no out-of-pocket costs thanks to Medicare. Before taking out a health insurance policy, you should weigh up the pros and cons of having private cover, as you might be better off just sticking with the public system. Some items to consider when weighing up public vs private hospital as a senior include the following:

Medicare Private hospital
Premiums
  • Free (other than the levy)
  • Costs $75/month+ extra if you earn over $90,000
  • Starts at $69 per month (and cancels out your Medicare Surcharge)
Doctor and hospital
  • Medicare chooses
  • You can choose your own hospital and doctor
Accommodation
  • Public hospital and room
  • You may get a private room in a hospital or stay in a private hospital
Waiting times
  • You could wait months for non-urgent treatment
  • You can skip the queue and have more choice over your appointment time
Hospital and medical costs
  • Free
  • Medicare pays 75%, and the remaining 25% plus any additional fees are paid by you and your insurer
Specialised services
  • Treatments such as weight loss surgery, & IVF can be covered but hard to access
  • Top policies will cover this type of treatment (often there is a 12-month waiting period)
Emergencies
  • Ambulances are not free unless you live in QLD or TAS

Medicare doesn’t cover everything

While Medicare definitely has its pros in regards to hospital cover, it has more cons than pros in regards to extras cover. Extras cover is there to cover you for treatments that fall outside of the auspices of hospital cover such as optical, dental and physio.

Public vs private waiting times for procedures

If you are going to go public, aside from not having access to a private room, you’ll undoubtedly be on a hospital waiting list. While both public and private hospital have waiting times for elective procedures, those times can be drastically shorter when you go private.

Procedure Median waiting time - public patients Median waiting time - private health insurance
Cataract extraction 113 29
Cholecystectomy 45 27
Coronary artery bypass graft 14 7
Cystoscopy 24 21
Haemorrhoidectomy 55 41
Hysterectomy 54 28
Inguinal herniorrhaphy 56 25
Myringoplasty 184 65
Myringotomy 63 21
Prostatectomy 43 28
Septoplasty 238 85
Tonsillectomy 138 49
Total hip replacement 125 53
Total knee replacement 203 76
Varicose veins stripping and ligation 108 53
Other procedures 31 19

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Private health insurance use in Australian hospitals 2006–07 to 2016–17

How does the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card work?

Once you turn 65, the Australian government officially considers you a senior and you may be eligible for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC). This is a concession card for older Australians that allows you to access cheaper pharmaceuticals and government-funded medical services. The eligibility requirements and benefits you can claim with this card are outlined below:

Eligibility criteria Benefits
To qualify for the CSHC, you must meet the following criteria:
  • Be of pension age (65) or older.
  • Be an Australian resident currently living in Australia.
  • Don't qualify for a Department of Veterans' Affairs pension.
  • Don't qualify for any other Department of Human Services payments.
  • Meet an income test.
CSHC holders can access the following:
  • Bulk-billed visits to your GP (depending on your doctor)
  • Increased Medicare Safety Net benefits
  • Cheaper prescription medication through the PBS
  • Other benefits that vary depending on where you live. These may include discounted utilities bills and property rates, cheaper health care costs (including ambulance, dental and eye care) and discounted public transport

What should you look for in a policy if you’re over 65?

It’s not as easy as finding a health fund and clicking on the seniors health insurance button because none of them have a policy called “seniors health insurance” or “health insurance for seniors”.

Health insurance falls into two categories: hospital or extras.

Health insurance type Main features What else is covered
Hospital cover
  • Access to a private or shared room in a private hospital
  • Choose the doctor who treats you and the hospital you attend
  • Ability to avoid lengthy public hospital waiting lists for procedures
Read more
Extras cover
  • Claim for out-of-hospital services that are largely excluded from Medicare
  • A huge number of benefits available ranging from dentistry to exercise classes
  • Can be combined with hospital cover for dual protection
Read more

What do you need in a hospital policy?

Deciding whether you want a hospital, an extra or a combined policy will come down to your personal circumstances. However, hospital has the big ticket items that are relevant to seniors. These include cover for the following:

  • Accommodation as a private patient in a private or public hospital
  • Operating theatre fees
  • Intensive care costs
  • In-patient X-rays, MRIs, CAT scans and pathology
  • Eye surgery
  • An extensive assortment of other surgeries and procedures (such as hip and knee replacements, back surgery, colonoscopies, dental surgery, hernia repair, renal dialysis and more)
  • Cardiothoracic surgery (heart, lungs and chest)
  • Cancer and stroke treatment
  • In-patient pharmaceuticals
  • Rehabilitation services
  • Prostheses
  • Organ transplant
  • In-patient psychiatric treatment
  • Gap cover for when you visit your GP
  • Palliative care

Notice anything missing from this list that would normally be covered by a top hospital policy? Yep, you guessed it: pregnancy. When an insurer or comparison site refers to a seniors policy, what they’re really saying is: “Here is our top hospital policy minus cover for pregnancy, obstetrics, IVF, etc.”

Different tiers of hospital cover

While this is set to change in 2019, as it stands, hospital insurance is broken into four tiers: top, medium, basic and public. As a general rule, if you’re a senior, you’re going to want to look for a top hospital policy as it provides you with the greatest access to the widest range of procedures and treatments.

What do you need from an extras policy?

Just like choosing the right hospital policy, find an extras policy that provides services that are useful to your life stage are important. Some benefits to keep an eye out for include the following:

Service How is it covered: Read More
Ambulance Health insurance will cover your emergency ambulance bills Read more
Optical Includes glasses and contact lenses. Extras will pay a set amount toward your glasses, normally $150 or $200. Medicare will pay for your eye test. Read more
Dental Including check-up, clean and scale, crowns and bridges, root canal therapy, dentures, implants, teeth extraction etc. Extras will pay a percentage of your treatment costs, from 50% up to 100%. Read more
Chiropractic Extras will pay a percentage of your treatment costs, from 50% up to 75%. Your policy will come with a 'limit' which is the total amount claimable. Read more
Physiotherapy Extras will pay a percentage of your treatment costs, from 50% up to 75%. Your policy will come with a 'limit' which is the total amount claimable. Read more
Hearing aids Policies will typically pay a set cost, rather than cash-back rebates. There can be a waiting period from 12-36 months. Read more
Non-Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) pharmaceuticals Cover for non-PBS medications is included on some high-level extras cover. There will be a limit on the amount you can claim per item, for example $50. Read more
Blood pressure monitors The amount you recieve is either a cost limit or a percentage of total cost. Monitors can be listed in either a hospital or extras policy. Read more
Occupational therapy Because occupational therapy is such a broad category, certain components are covered by Medicare while others are only covered by private health funds - but you will need a referral from a doctor Read more
Podiatry Treatments include arthritis complications affecting the legs and feet, skin and nail problems, corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, bunions, orthotics. You'll get a yearly limit on treatment. Read more
Psychology Extras will pay a percentage of your sessions. Your policy will come with a 'limit' which is the total amount claimable. Medicare may also be able to help. Read more
Preventative tests Such as bowel screening and bone density testing Read more

Of course, this is just a guide to the type of cover you can expect. Don’t assume that your policy will cover everything listed above. It’s important to check the fine print to make sure you’re fully aware of what is and isn’t included.

What does the best seniors policy look like?

While you won’t find a “seniors” policy on the market, there are a number of key features you should look for when buying health insurance in later life. First things first, you’re generally going to want top cover. Next, you’re going to want to look for policies that provide a high level of cover for relevant treatments such as heart surgery, major eye surgery and joint replacement.

If you’re looking to have cover for out-of-hospital treatments, you’re going to want to look for an extras policy that provides a good level of cover for dental (both general and major), along with optical, physio, health aids (such as hearing aids and blood glucose monitors) and ambulance.

At Finder, we’re here to help you make the best choice and not just spriuk our partners, so here are our top picks from non-partners:

  • Phoenix Health Top Hospital $500 Excess & Top Extras
  • Healthcare Insurance Premier Package $1000 excess
  • Peoplecare Premium Hospital $500 Excess and High Extras

How much does it cost for seniors?

Health insurance is community rated, which means no matter whether you’re 18 or 88, you’re going to pay the same amount for the same level of cover. How much your health insurance will cost will come down to the following:

  • Whether you choose extras only, hospital only or a combination cover
  • The level of cover – top hospital costs more than basic hospital
  • The brand
  • Where you live
  • How much you’ll be hit by the LHC if you’re getting cover for the first time

On average, a single hospital + extras policy can cost from $67.15 per month to $277.41 per month for a female living in NSW.

State or Territory Singles Premium Lowest* Singles Premium Highest* Couples Premium Lowest* Couples Premium Highest*
NSW $67.15/month $277.41/month $132.67/month $554.82/month
QLD $66.86/month $280.19/month $133.72/month $560.38/month
VIC $67.22/month $283.42/month $134.44/month $566.83/month
SA $63.33/month $257.50/month $126.66/month $515.01/month
WA $49.62/month $218.70/month $99.24/month $437.39/month
NT $29.05/month $196.36/month $58.09/month $393.64/month
TAS $69.18/month $255.28/month $135.36/month $510.56/month

*Prices are based on a female aged 70 years or older, that earns less than $90,000 looking for a combined Hospital and Extras policy. To find out what you would pay, just enter your details in the quote engine above.

Are seniors eligible for a health insurance rebate?

Yes and if you’re over the age of 65, your private health insurance rebate increases, provided you're not classified as a high-income earner ($140,001 or more for singles and $280,001 and over for families, single parents and couples).

You can claim the rebate either as a premium reduction through your health fund or as a tax offset when you lodge your tax return with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

How much is the lifetime healthcare loading (LHC) going to cost you?

If you’re getting health insurance for the first time as a senior, you’re going to be impacted by the Lifetime Health Cover (LHC), which is a loading of 2% on top of your premiums for every year over the age of 31 you didn’t have private health insurance. This can make buying health insurance as an adult prohibitively expensive for seniors.

How much more will health insurance cost if the LHC applies to you?

Let’s assume you’re 70 years old and have never held cover. The maximum loading of 70% will apply to your policy for the first ten years you hold it. If the normal annual premium for your seniors health insurance policy was $1,800, you’d need to pay an extra $1,260 per year, not counting any rebates you might be eligible for. While an additional $100 or so each month is nothing to sneeze at, getting insured can still be worth it if you make the most of your policy.

When don’t you have to pay the LHC?

There are a few exceptions where seniors won’t have to pay the LHC, the most relevant exemption is whether you were born on or before 1 July 1934. If you were, then you don’t need to worry about the LHC.

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20 Responses

  1. finder Customer Care
    MayMarch 28, 2018Staff

    Hi Bill,

    Thanks for your inquiry.

    Yes, cardiovascular disease is considered to be a pre-existing condition so the waiting period applied is 12 months. If you like to compare the insurance prices and cover, please use our panel above and click on the orange ‘Search policies’ button. Please discuss directly with the insurer about your options and waiting period once you’ve chosen a brand.

    Cheers,
    May

  2. Default Gravatar
    terryMarch 19, 2018

    My mother in law is 98 years old, she has had private health insurance for over 20 years i believe, maybe much more. Last year she fell and broke a hip, was taken by ambulance to a public hospital. We requested a private room but were told there were none available. We could have moved her to a private hospital, but were advised with age pain etc it would not be advisable to do so. Is there a cover for these types of situations where there seems to be very little if any successful claims that can be made, other than palliative care at sometime in the future?

    • Default Gravatar
      LiezlMarch 22, 2018

      Hi Terry,

      Thanks for reaching out to us at finder!

      Depending on which policy your mother-in-law has, she might benefit from the wide range of general treatments included in hospital and extras covers such as physiotherapy, osteopathy, chiropractic services or other natural or alternative therapy.

      Kindly note that the extent to which particular services are covered will depend largely on the insurer and policy. If you’re unsure of the inclusion and limits, it’s a good idea to contact her insurer directly.

      I hope this information helps.

      Best regards,
      Liezl

  3. Default Gravatar
    RosemaryMarch 27, 2017

    am aged 86 and am insured with Australian Unity for hospital cover
    Is this a good choice or should I be looking at another health fund.
    I keep in good health

    • finder Customer Care
      ZubairMarch 28, 2017Staff

      Hi Rosemary,

      Thank you for your question.

      finder.com.au is a comparison and information service and we are not permitted to provide our users with personalised financial advice or product recommendations.

      If you would like to compare policies from health insurance brands in our panel, please enter your details into thequote form on the top of the page.

      Cheers,
      Zubair

  4. Default Gravatar
    barryFebruary 10, 2017

    BOTH MY WIFE AND SELF ARE 82 YEARS AND HAVE ALWAYS SINCE WORKING DAY STARTED HAVE BEEN INSURED,CURRENT WITH MEDIBANK PRIVATE AND HAVE TOP HOSPITAL COVER.
    WHY DO WE BOTH HAVE TO PAY $500 EXCESS TO GO INTO HOSPITAL AS WE BOTH DID 2016 FOR SLEEP TESTING ,WE HAVE NO OTHER INCOME EXCEPT GOVT: PENSION .NOW INSURANCE GOING UP AGAIN AND AT THIS MOMENT LOOKS LIKE WE HAVE TO STOP INSURANCE AND LET GOVT:TAKE THE BILL FOR HOSPITAL CARE ,I FIND IT HARD TO PAY MEDIBANK AS IT IS ,WE HAVE TO GO WITH OUT WHICH IS BLOODY AWFUL ALL THESE YEARS PAYING BENEFITS AND WE GET EXCESS WHY
    BARRY.

    • finder Customer Care
      RichardFebruary 10, 2017Staff

      Hi Barry,

      Sorry to hear you’re having issues with the price rise. Unfortunately, increasing health costs due to the ageing population, improved medical testing and other factors have forced health funds to increase their premiums.

      If you would like to compare your options in hopes of finding a more affordable option, you can do so by entering your details into the comparison tool at the top of the page.

      All the best,
      Richard

  5. Default Gravatar
    DeniseJanuary 15, 2017

    I am not a member of a health fund but would like to get cover for my 74 year old husband and myself at 69 years old is it possible to get it.

    • finder Customer Care
      RichardJanuary 16, 2017Staff

      Hi Denise,

      Thanks for getting in touch. While you will be able to get cover, as you’ve not held a policy before you may be subject to the lifetime health cover loading.

      To speak with an adviser about your cover options, please click the enquire now button in the table above. Once you’ve completed the contact form, an adviser will be in touch.

      All the best,
      Richard

  6. Default Gravatar
    WendyNovember 12, 2016

    I would like to enquire about seniors hospital cover with no extras

    • finder Customer Care
      RichardNovember 14, 2016Staff

      Hi Wendy,

      Thanks for getting in touch. You can enquire either directly or with help from an adviser, by using the table at the top of this article.

      All the best,
      Richard

  7. Default Gravatar
    JeanSeptember 11, 2016

    I have no health insurance I just want to have a first idea of how much it would cost approximately.
    I am 66 years old and am still working full time

    • finder Customer Care
      RichardSeptember 12, 2016Staff

      Hi Jean,

      Thanks for your question. finder.com.au is a comparison service and we are unable to provide our users with personalised financial advice. Since you’ve not had health insurance before, you may have to pay the Lifetime Health Cover loading. If you would like to speak with an adviser about your options and to get a quote, please complete the contact form at the top of this article.

      All the best,
      Richard

  8. Default Gravatar
    ChandlerJune 4, 2016

    I am currently a member of a health fund but since I am a senior I am attempting to compare it with senior’s funds in an attempt to find one offering what I need and hopefully, at less cost.
    Is there a table I can use to compare specific funds?
    Thank you

    • Default Gravatar
      Robyn.September 6, 2016

      Is there a table I can use to compare the health fund that I’m already with . I am a senior looking for a fund at a lower cost

      Thank you

    • finder Customer Care
      RichardSeptember 6, 2016Staff

      Hi Robyn,

      Thanks for your question. We don’t currently have the facilities in place to compare health policies online. If you would like to speak with an adviser who will be able to give you a price comparison, please complete the contact form at the top of the page and they will give you a call.

      All the best,
      Richard

    • finder Customer Care
      RichardJune 6, 2016Staff

      Hi Chandler,

      Thanks for your question. finder.com.au doesn’t currently have the facilities in place to provide you with a personalised quote. However, if you complete the contact form at the top of the page, an advisor will be give you a call to discuss your options with you.

      I hope this was helpful,
      Richard

  9. Default Gravatar
    marieMarch 1, 2016

    are all hospitals covered by health funds

    • finder Customer Care
      RichardMarch 1, 2016Staff

      Hi Marie,

      thanks for your question. Most funds will have their own network or member private hospitals. If you choose to be treated in a private hospital, you can generally eliminate the majority of your out-of-pocket expenses. You can also elect to be treated as a private patient in a public hospital. All of this will depend on your level of cover and the fund you’re with. You should contact your insurer directly for more information about their cover network.

      I hope this was helpful,
      Richard

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