What is a waiting period for health insurance?
A health insurance waiting period is the amount of time you have to wait before you can claim on your hospital or extras cover.
How waiting periods work
When you buy health insurance, there are some things you'll be able to claim almost immediately, such as the cost of an emergency ambulance trip. But there are other services you can't access until you've held your policy for a while.
Waiting periods vary depending on the treatment. In most cases, you'll need to serve a 2-month waiting period before you're covered, with a few exceptions. For example, you have to hold a gold-standard hospital policy for at least 12 months before you can claim for pregnancy or childbirth benefits.
Waiting periods were put in place to keep people from signing up only when they need treatment and then cancelling afterwards. If you were allowed to do this, insurance premiums would go up for all policyholders because there would be so much pressure on the health funds.
Switching health funds?
Once you've served your waiting periods with 1 health fund, you won't have to serve them again if you switch unless there's a break in cover.
Hospital waiting periods
With hospital cover, the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman sets the maximum possible waiting periods for every circumstance and insurers have to stick to them. This means the same waiting periods will apply no matter what hospital policy you get.
|Hospital benefit||Waiting period|
|Most pre-existing conditions||12 months|
|Pregnancy and childbirth||12 months|
|All psychiatric care, rehabilitation and palliative care||2 months|
|Other in-hospital treatment||2 months|
|Accidents and ambulance services||No waiting period|
Extras waiting periods
Extras waiting periods are set by individual health funds so unlike hospital cover, they can vary. However, due to competition between insurers, you'll find that they are typically the same across the majority of health funds. In some cases, health insurers will let you skip waiting periods for certain treatments such as general dental, optical and physiotherapy.
|Extras benefit||Typical waiting period|
|General dental||2 months|
|Major dental||12 months|
|Physiotherapy, chiropractic and osteopathy||2 months|
|Remedial massage||2 months|
|Dietetics, nutrition and weight loss||2 months|
|Pharmacy (non-PBS pharmacy items)||2 months|
|Hearing aids||12 months|
Private health insurance waiting periods and pre-existing conditions
You'll have to wait 12 months before pre-existing medical conditions are covered by your hospital insurance policy. That includes any illnesses you showed symptoms of in the 6 months prior to taking out a hospital policy. The only exception is if your pre-existing medical condition falls under psychiatric care, rehabilitation or palliative care – in which case, you'll only need to serve a 2-month waiting period.
There are no pre-existing condition waiting periods with extras health insurance. That means if you've already got bad eyesight, you won't have to wait any longer to claim benefits. You'll just have the standard waiting period.
Why compare health insurance with Finder?
We don't ask for your phone or email to see prices.
With 1 click, you can open your results to nearly every fund in Australia.
You pay the same price as going direct – we charge no fees.
Why you can trust Finder's health insurance experts
Our health insurance engine is completely free to use. You pay the same as buying directly from the health insurer. Better still, we regularly run exclusive deals that you won't find on any other site.
Unlike other comparison sites, we're not owned by an insurer. That means our opinions are our own and you can compare nearly every health fund in Australia on the site (and find a better deal).
Since 2014, we've helped 350,000+ people find health insurance by explaining your options simply. We'll never ask for your number or email to see prices. We're here to help you make a decision.
We're here to help
Frequently asked questions about waiting periods
More guides on Finder
The best standing desk in Australia: Our top choice of the year
If you're looking for a standing desk for the home office, the Omnidesk Ascent is our #1 choice for 2023.
Fast NBN plans are now cheaper. Is it worth switching?
It's time to sort out your NBN plan for the new year.
Save $1,583 a year by using index funds instead of active trading | Dollar Saver tip #60
Invest in an index fund instead of actively trading stocks and you not only save on time and fees, you could be earning more in returns too.
5 perks you can score by upgrading your internet this year
SPONSORED: Upgrade your internet before the end of 2023 and get ahead on your life admin! We take a look at some of the benefits of a faster internet connection.
Aussies are struggling to save money, and Gen Z blame themselves
Young Australians cite overspending as the main reason for not reaching their financial goals.
Shein IPO: How to invest in the Shein IPO
What you need to know about investing in Shein from Australia.
Best places to exchange currency in Brisbane
Your guide to currency exchange in Brisbane, including how to get the best exchange rate.
Waiting for rates to fall? Don’t bank on it, says ANZ CEO
Addressing speculation that interest rates might fall in late-2024, ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott said he thought it was too optimistic.