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How to work the perks of private health insurance

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Private health insurance might have more benefits than you realise. Here's how to get the most from your policy.

If you've ever felt a little dissatisfied with your health insurance, know this: You don't have to be.

A recent survey by Finder revealed that the majority of Australians (59%) feel they're getting good value for money from their health insurance policy. You can be part of that 59%.

How? Well, you might have to do a little bit of leg work. But we promise it's worth it and we've got a few tips to give you a head start.

👋 Psst! This article has been created in collaboration with Medibank, so we'll be using some examples from its policies throughout. There are other options out there though.

Compare policies

Not all health insurance policies are created equal. Compare health insurance policies online and you could find a policy which is better value, better suited to your needs, or both.

Let's imagine you're looking for a budget policy. Using Finder's Health Insurance Comparison tool, I found a bare bones policy for around $77 a month which would pay restricted benefits for in-hospital psychiatric services, rehabilitation and palliative care.

Or I could spend a little bit more and get a lot more. For example, I could get Medibank's Bronze Everyday hospital policy for around $88 a month and that includes restricted benefits for all of the above, plus unrestricted benefits for 18 other clinical categories including chemotherapy for cancer, diabetes management, pain management, gynaecology and joint reconstructions. After I've served any waiting periods, that is.

These costs are based on my specific age, income, and location so there might be some variations when you put your own details in, but it's still worth taking a wider look at what you could get for your money.

A pregnant lady wearing a religious headscarf sits on a hospital bed.

Examine your extras

If you have an extras policy, look closely at the things you can claim. Many policies will let you claim prescription sunglasses, remedial massage, and acupuncture.

You should also check to see if there are any included benefits that offer 100% cashback. This means you won't have to co-pay or pay a gap fee for that item as long as the cost of the service doesn't go over your relevant extras limit.

For example, your extras policy may offer 100% cashback up to a maximum of $250 on optical. These limits reset each year, so you might as well use it up even if you don't necessarily need new glasses right now.

You could consider getting prescription sunglasses instead. Or even a spare pair to keep in the car. Remember, you're paying for the benefit, so you might as well use it.

A woman wearing a mask helps another woman choose new glasses.

Use network providers

Health insurers usually have a network of provider partners. This network is made up of all the hospitals, day surgeries and health practitioners that they have teamed up with.

In some cases, there are benefits to you visiting these partner providers. Prices may be capped so there won't be any nasty surprises on your bill and you may have cover for more treatments or higher reimbursements.

For example, Medibank offers customers up to 100% back on up to 2 dental check-ups every year, but only at Member's Choice Advantage dentists (that's its provider network). Whichever health insurer you choose, you should make a point to ask them about benefits of using a provider from their partner network.

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Look for deals

Before you sign up for health insurance, look to see what deals are on offer. You might be able to score hundreds of dollars in gift cards, get a few weeks free coverage, or earn hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer points.

Even if you can't see any deals online, ask your insurer of choice if they have any sign-up offers currently running. You never know what's available and it's the squeaky wheel that gets oiled!

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Look for fringe benefits

Health insurance is a competitive space and insurers do a lot to stand out from the crowd. That means if you look closely, you can find extra benefits that fall outside of your standard policies.

For example, Medibank hospital members can access a free 24/7 phone service where you can get medical advice from experienced nurses. The brand also operates a dedicated Mental Health Phone Support service for any mental health or emotional concerns.

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Look for a rewards program

A growing number of health insurers are rolling out rewards programs to encourage healthy living. It makes sense, right? The healthier you are, the less likely you are to require a stay in hospital, and ultimately make a big claim.

So, keep your eyes open for a rewards program that gives extra perks. It probably shouldn't be the number one factor to think about when looking at health insurance, but if you're torn between 2 policies, it could be the deciding factor that pushes you one way or the other.

Medibank's Live Better Program is among the rewards schemes currently available to Aussie customers. Download the app, and eligible Medibank members with hospital or extras cover can earn points for reaching health goals, such as reaching your step count. You can then redeem those points for rewards or a discount on your premium.

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