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We do not compare all health funds in the market, or all policies from our partner funds, and at times certain funds or products might be unavailable. Learn more.

What is private health insurance?

Private health insurance helps provide you with more choice in your healthcare. Private hospital cover lets you avoid public waiting lists, choose your own doctor and have your own private room (on availability). Extras cover pays toward many out-of-hospital medical treatments like physiotherapy or dental care. For the benefits of both types of cover you can take out a combined cover policy.

Looking to compare health insurance?

With so many health insurance providers and policies available, it can be hard to know which one is right for you. At Compare the Market, we can help you on your journey to find the best health insurance for you. You can get a quote in minutes through our online comparison tool, or if you prefer a more personal approach, you can talk to someone at our expert run call centre to discuss your options.

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Easily match your needs to a range of policies. It only takes minutes to compare health insurance with us. Learn more.

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Learn about health insurance and its benefits

Private hospital cover

Private hospital cover helps you pay the cost of in-hospital treatment as a private patient. Private hospital cover can also help you avoid public waiting lists and lets you choose your own doctor and stay in a private room (when available)

Health insurance extras

Extras cover can help pay for out-of-hospital medical care that Medicare doesn’t contribute towards. For example, it may pay for a new pair of glasses, a physio appointment or a dental check-up.

Hospital and extras combined

A combined health insurance policy includes hospital and extras cover. It can subsidise a wide range of your expenses both in and out of the hospital.

Dental insurance

Getting covered for dental treatment is crucial for many Australians, as the expense can quickly grow. This is especially true if you require major work such as implants or dentures. Luckily, many health insurance policies cover the cost of major and minor dental work.

Physiotherapy cover

Physiotherapy consultations and treatment plans can assist with recovery from an injury. When you need this kind of support, health insurance can help subsidise these costs.

Pre-existing conditions

If you had a medical issue before taking out your policy, it may be considered a pre-existing condition. Luckily, you won’t have to pay any more for your policy than someone without a medical history would, although you may have increased waiting times for treatment relating to your condition.

Pregnancy cover

Obstetrics cover is a common benefit found in private hospital policies. If you wish to deliver your child as a private patient, this type of insurance can help you shoulder the costs.

Optical cover

Optical treatment is covered by both hospital and extras policies. Depending on your needs, you could be insured for prescription glasses, contact lenses, laser eye surgery and more.

Ambulance cover

Ambulance insurance covers the cost of treatment and transportation by emergency services. Depending on where you live, these costs may be covered by your state government instead.


Chiropractors treat musculoskeletal issues, with many Australians utilising their service every year. You can partially offset these costs by taking out cover.

Waiting Periods

A waiting period is the amount of time you’ll wait before you’re able to claim private health insurance benefits. These can range from a couple of months to several years.

Overseas visitors cover

Visitors who holiday or work in Australia for an extended period are often obligated to take out health insurance, given they typically don’t qualify for Medicare.

Lifetime Health Cover (LHC)

Lifetime health cover loading encourages people to take out private hospital cover early in life – specifically, by the 1 July after your 31st birthday.

Medicare Levy Surcharge (MLS)

The MLS is a government surcharge levied on the taxable income of high-income earners who don’t hold private hospital cover.

The Government Rebate

The private health insurance rebate can reimburse you for a portion of your health insurance premiums, depending on your age and income.

Frequently asked questions

How does private health insurance work?

You can purchase private health cover in a few different forms. Private hospital cover gives you the option of being treated as a private patient, so you can choose your doctor, stay in a private room (when available) and avoid public waiting lists, among other perks. Extras cover helps pay for the treatment you receive out of hospital that Medicare doesn’t cover.

When you receive treatment as a private patient, Medicare and your private hospital insurance will cover you for 100% of the Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) fee. You may still have a gap payment, which is the difference between the MBS fee and what your medical treatment costs.

For out-of-hospital treatments listed on your extras policy, your insurance provider will pay either a percentage of the total costs or a set dollar amount. The amount you can claim may be subject to lifetime, annual or sub limits.

Always check your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) before claiming as limits, exclusions and waiting periods will apply.

How much does private health insurance cost?

Private health insurance in Australia is community rated, meaning that you’ll never be charged more than someone else for the same policy based on risk factors such as race, gender, pre-existing conditions or any other reason. However, there are several factors that can still affect how much you pay in premiums, such as your level of cover, state of residence, rebates, discounts and Lifetime Health Cover (LHC) loading.

For hospital cover, policies are divided into four tiers (Basic, Bronze, Silver and Gold) which are priced accordingly. Extras cover is also usually divided into tiers; however, these levels are decided by the insurer and aren’t regulated by the government like hospital cover is. Taking out a higher level of cover will naturally cost you more, although you can often reduce your premiums by agreeing to a higher excess instead.

Your premiums will also be influenced by your eligibility for an age-based discount, the Australian Government’s rebate and LHC loading.

  • Age-based discount. Some insurers will offer an age-based discount of up to 10% if you take out a policy before you turn 25. The discount is then reduced by 2% for each year after your 25th birthday that you don’t take out a policy. After you turn 41, the discount is phased out by 2% each year until it reaches zero.
  • Government rebate. The Australian Government’s private health insurance rebate helps reduce the cost of your premiums depending on your age and income. For example, if you qualify for the highest tier of the rebate, you can potentially receive a premium refund of 32.812%.
  • LHC loading. Depending on your age when you first take out health insurance, you may have to pay an increased premium due to the LHC loading. This is to encourage Australians to take out a policy earlier in life to reduce the strain on the public system.

Which health insurance is the best?

The best fund for you will depend on your unique circumstances. Thanks to our handy private health insurance comparison service, we make it even easier to find health insurance. With our free tool, it takes only minutes to compare policies side-by-side to find great-value cover that suits your family’s needs.

Our partners funds are:

We do not compare all health funds in the market, or all policies from our partner funds, and at times certain funds or products might be unavailable. Learn more.

Private health insurers in Australia

  • AAMI
  • ACA
  • AIA Health
  • APIA
  • Astute Simplicity Health
  • Australian Health Management
  • Australian Unity
  • Budget Direct
  • BUPA
  • CBHS
  • CBHS Corporate
  • CDH
  • CUA Health
  • Defence Health
  • Doctors’ Health
  • Emergency Services Health
  • Frank
  • GMF Health
  • GU Corporate Health
  • HBF
  • HCF
  • HCI
  • Health Partners
  • Health.com.au
  • Healthguard
  • HIF
  • Hunter Health Insurance
  • iSelf
  • Kogan
  • Latrobe
  • Manchester Unity
  • MDHF
  • Medibank
  • MyOwn Health
  • Navy
  • NIB
  • NRMA Health
  • Nurses and Midwives
  • Onemedifund
  • Peoplecare
  • Phoenix
  • Police Health
  • Qantas Assure
  • QCH
  • Reserve Bank
  • RT Health Fund
  • St Lukes
  • Suncorp
  • Teachers Health
  • Territory Health
  • Transport Health
  • TUH
  • UniHealth
  • Union Health
  • Westfund

The information provided is current as of April 2022 and sourced from the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman. This list is subject to change.

Does Medicare cover ambulances?

Since Medicare doesn’t cover ambulance transport and treatment costs, many health funds across the country offer ambulance cover that you can add to your health insurance policy or take out as a standalone policy. Some ambulance services also offer membership through which you can be covered for transport and treatment costs.

In Queensland and Tasmania, the state governments cover ambulance costs instead.

What does private health insurance cover that Medicare doesn't?

The public and private healthcare systems are designed to complement each other.

When you’re admitted to a private hospital as a private patient, Medicare will pay up to 75% of your treatment’s schedule fee. Your private health insurance contributes the additional 25% as well as covering your accommodation costs and theatre fees for the procedure. In some cases, your insurer will also provide additional gap cover when your doctor charges more than the scheduled fee.

Extras coverage is designed to contribute towards those services where Medicare does not pay a benefit, like dentist treatments or physiotherapy sessions. Optical treatment is a great example of how Medicare and private health insurance extras products can work together: Medicare pays for the eye check and consultation with the optometrist and your private health insurer provides coverage towards the prescription glasses or contact lenses.

Is private health insurance tax deductible?

Whilst not tax deductible, private health insurance can still have an impact on your tax.

Firstly, the  private health insurance rebate is available to anyone with a hospital, extras or combined health insurance policy, and it can be claimed each year via your tax return. Alternatively, you can also choose to claim the rebate as a discount on your premiums instead.

Also, if you earn more than $90,000 as a single or $180,000 as a couple or family and don’t hold sufficient private hospital insurance, you could incur the Medicare Levy Surcharge (MLS). This is applied as a percentage of your annual income (e.g. 1.5%), which you’ll need to pay for the number of days in the financial year that you didn’t hold the coverage.

What does ‘no gap’ mean in health insurance?

Each hospital treatment has a Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) fee, a price the government believes is fair. Medicare pays 75% of this fee, while your health insurer pays the remaining 25%. If your specialist charges this exact schedule fee, you won’t incur any out-of-pocket expenses, or ‘no gap’.

If your specialist charges above this fee, you’ll have to pay the extra amount not covered by Medicare and your private health insurance.

For extras services, no gap simply means that the health care provider doesn’t charge above your extras benefits limit which results in no out-of-pocket costs. Your insurer may have agreements with certain providers to eliminate out of pocket expenses. Be sure to check with your insurer before seeking treatment to understand what costs you may incur.

For more information check out our page explaining gap payments.

What is an excess?

When you’re admitted to hospital as a private patient, you may have to pay a lump sum of money to your private health insurer, which is known as the excess. This could be in the form of a payment per hospital admission but may only be for the first admission of the calendar, financial or membership year depending on your insurance provider. Choosing a higher excess may allow you to pay lower premiums.

Which type of health insurance covers pregnancies?

Depending on your level of cover, hospital insurance can take care of your treatment costs as a private patient for birth-related services. These can include pregnancy, labour, post-natal care, C-sections, in-patient obstetrician care and private room accommodation (should it be available). However, you must hold health cover for 12 months before you can claim on these services.

Importantly, not all private hospital insurance policies cover birth-related services. Gold policies, as well as some lower tiers with a ‘plus’ designation (e.g. Silver Plus), can include this coverage.

A private hospital policy may also cover assisted reproduction services to a limited degree when you’re treated as an in-patient (i.e. you must be admitted to a hospital) or admitted for day surgeries. This could include infertility tests, IVF and GIFT (e.g. egg collection or embryo transfer).

Do pensioners need private health insurance?

As some health issues tend to show up later in life, pensioners can get enormous value from health insurance.

However, it’s not as simple as saying ‘all pensioners need cover’, so much as they should consider cover. For anyone thinking about taking out private health insurance, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I comfortable sitting on a public waiting list for treatment? With private hospital cover, you can avoid public waiting lists and start your recovery sooner. For important procedures like elective bypass heart surgery, it can be an enormous relief to get treatment as soon as possible.
  • Would I spend less on extras cover than I would on out-of-hospital treatment? A smart cookie will find an extras policy that helps them pay for a greater portion of the out-of-pocket costs on the things they need (e.g. eyeglasses, dentist appointments), while not paying any more than they were before getting cover.
  • Does my state/territory pay for emergency ambulance transportation costs? Ambulance cover differs depending on which state or territory you live in. In most states, though, your Pensioner Concession or Health Care Card may entitle you to free ambulance transport. It’s worth checking your state/territory’s ambulance service to see whether you’re eligible. If you’re not, consider taking out health insurance that covers ambulance costs or standalone ambulance cover. It can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars for a trip to the hospital, otherwise.

Elderly friends agree on importance of private health insurance

Whether pensioners need private cover or not, their base premiums will never be increased because of their age. The only price difference between customers come from the choice of policy, state of residency and whether a government rebate, loading or discount applies (in addition to the base premiums).

Why should I take out private health insurance?

Whether you should take out private health insurance will depend on your circumstances. However, you might want to consider it if you value having more choice when it comes to your healthcare. Avoiding public waiting lists for elective surgeries, choosing your own doctor, and staying in a private room are great reasons to consider private hospital cover. If you prefer to maintain your health through regular out-of-hospital treatments, you might want to consider an extras policy instead.

Anthony Fleming, General Manager

Meet our health insurance expert, Anthony Fleming

As General Manager for Health Insurance and Life Insurance at Compare the Market, Anthony Fleming is passionate about helping people better understand insurance and unlock the value in their policies. He firmly believes in the benefits of having cover, like avoiding public waiting lists, accessing a private room and choosing your own doctor (if available).

Anthony has more than 17 years’ experience in the insurance industry. He’s also a Board Member of the Private Health Insurance Intermediaries Association and appears on television and in the press dispelling myths and educating Australians about their insurance needs.

Anthony’s top health insurance tips

  1. Getting value for money out of your extras is key. If you claim regularly on benefits such as routine check-ups or a yearly pair of glasses, it could be worthwhile. If it’s more of a ‘just in case’, it may be best to save your money and pay for services as you go.
  2. While having lower premiums is tempting, cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean better. Instead of sacrificing inclusions on your cover, consider increasing your excess to lower costs.
  3. Flexibility is one of the key benefits of private health insurance. For example, any waiting periods you have already served will be recognised by your new fund if you switch policies. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to wait for any new or upgraded services and benefits.
  4. When comparing health insurance, deciding on the right level of cover can be vital; it could mean the difference between being covered or leaving yourself out of pocket. Some choose to take out hospital cover alone, whilst others consider extras only. Many also take out combined hospital and extras policies for full range of cover.
  5. At Compare the Market, we don’t charge our customers anything to use our comparison service. Instead, we receive a commission from the health fund each time one of our customers becomes a member. We have an industry-first standard pricing model which means all our partner funds pay the same fee for the service we provide. We pride ourselves on the integrity of our comparison service, so it’s critically important to us that the way we make money doesn’t affect the service we provide to our customers.

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