Unfortunately, no waiting period health insurance does not exist, but you can avoid serving them through special promotions or when you switch funds.
Whenever you take out private health insurance, one of the most important factors you need to consider is the waiting periods that apply to cover. The waiting periods determine how long you have to wait after joining a health fund before you are eligible to claim any benefits, so they can be crucial when choosing the right cover for your needs.
Does any fund offer health insurance with no waiting periods?
No, there is no private health insurance policy offered by any Australian fund that does not have waiting periods as a standard feature. Regardless of whether you choose hospital or extras cover, waiting periods usually apply to the benefits provided by your policy.
However, health funds do offer special promotions where they will waive the waiting periods on extras services to attract new members. In these cases, you are able to claim for relevant services as soon as your membership begins. These deals are especially common around the March switching period and during the lead up to the end of financial year.
What are waiting periods?
The waiting period is the time you will have to wait after joining a health fund before you are eligible to claim benefits for particular services. Once you’ve served the relevant waiting period, you can access cover for specific medical and health care costs under your health insurance policy.
There are three situations when waiting periods typically apply:
- When you first join a health fund.
- When you re-join a health fund after your cover has lapsed.
- When you upgrade to a higher level of cover.
What services have waiting periods?
Waiting periods apply to both hospital cover and extras cover policies. With hospital cover, the Australian government sets the following maximum waiting periods that health funds can impose for hospital treatment.
- 12 months for pre-existing conditions.
- 12 months for obstetrics (pregnancy).
- 2 months for psychiatric care, rehabilitation or palliative care, even if for a pre-existing condition.
- 2 months for all other services.
Individual health funds set the waiting periods for all general treatments covered under an extras policy. Therefore, if you are seeking this type of cover it can be a solid strategy to do some research into the policies offered by Australia's 30+ health funds, as one may apply lower extras waiting periods to a specific service (such as general dental) than its competitors.
Do I need to re-serve waiting periods when I switch funds?
A key stumbling block for Australians who are considering switching health funds is the fear that they will have to serve another waiting period before they can access any benefits from their new fund. However, this is not the case.
When you switch to an equivalent level of cover with a new health fund, by law your new fund cannot require you to re-serve any waiting periods you have already observed with your old fund.
On the other hand, if you take out a higher level of cover with your new health fund, a waiting period will only apply to the additional benefits your new policy offers. You’ll still be able to access the same level of cover you could with your old fund, but you’ll need to wait until you’ve completed the waiting periods to access the full range of benefits.
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