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How to receive healthcare at home as hospitals hit breaking point

Reviewed by Head of Health Insurance, Lana Hambilton
6 min read
3 Aug 2022
woman getting care at home with health insurance

As COVID-19 cases explode around the country and tens of thousands of Australians battle the flu, Compare the Market says there may be a way for those with appropriate hospital cover to receive care in the privacy, and comfort, of their own homes.

Several leading health insurance providers offer at-home care with some of their policies, meaning Australians with cover who meet eligibility requirements and have served relevant waiting periods could receive medicines, treatments, infusions, physiotherapy, dialysis, post-surgery rehabilitation and more, all from the comfort of within their own four walls.

With our most vulnerable at risk of serious illness if they contract COVID-19 or influenza, Compare the Market’s health insurance expert Anthony Fleming said health insurance was an effective way for Australians to continue receiving the care they need safely.

“Many health insurers offer various at-home care programs for a range of illnesses and conditions in some of their policies,” Mr Fleming said. “While these home management and support programs aren’t compulsory for insurers to offer and do vary between providers, we know that many Australians are missing out on at-home care because they simply don’t know what’s available to them as part of their policy.

“Always check your policy wording for inclusions in your level of cover. If you’re eligible for at-home care and not currently receiving it, chat with your insurer about what you need to do to sign up.”

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Compare the Market analysis found that 82% of providers available through its website offer at-home care in some way. However, the treatments and programs available do vary significantly between providers, meaning some Australians may not be getting the most out of their current policy.

For example, providers like Australian Unity, NIB, Frank and GMHBA boast an array of at-home services for those who have served waiting periods and hold valid hospital or combined cover. This includes receiving hospital care, rehabilitation, infusions, mental health treatments, telehealth services and even advice around parenting from home in some cases.

Some at-home treatments, such as dialysis, are only available through providers like Bupa while insurers like AIA only offer complimentary access to some at-home services for a limited period.

“Just as department stores may stock exclusive items, it’s a similar story when it comes to health insurance and at-home services,” Mr Fleming explained. “Some are going to offer a greater variety of treatments you can receive at home, while others will offer minimal treatments or none at all.

“The last thing we want is for people to miss out on relevant at-home healthcare because it’s unavailable with their current provider.

“You may be able to find at-home treatments with another insurer and if you’ve already served your waiting periods, they may allow you to switch and start taking advantage of these services sooner.”

Compare the Market research shows there are various at-home services currently available in Australia. Please note: The list below doesn’t include every insurance provider in Australia. Table is accurate as of 22/07/2022.

ProviderAt-home services available at a glance
AIA Health InsuranceThree months of complimentary access to Personal Health Mentor support services from Medix if diagnosed with an eligible medical condition, including mental health, cancer, kidney and liver diseases, cardiovascular diseases, etc
Australian UnityVarious services available, including:

·         Hospital care, including nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, personal care and meals provision

·         Rehab, including nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and personal care

·         Infusions

·         Mental health care through Mindstep

·         Telehealth for long-term health conditions

·         Pregnancy support

BupaVarious services available, including:

·         Rehabilitation following a hospital admission

·         Palliative care

·         Dialysis

·         Chemotherapy

·         Aged care support

·         Various telehealth options, including hospital recovery and health coaching

FrankVarious services available, including:

·         Hospital in the home care, which is an alternative to hospital admissions or hospital stays

·         Rehabilitation, including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nursing and care coordination

·         Access to a Chronic Disease Management Program

GMHBAVarious services available, including:

·         Hospital at home, with access to acute medical services from home

·         Rehabilitation at home, which is a substitute for inpatient rehabilitation

·         Access to a Care Coordination service for those with complex health needs

·         Access to a Chronic Disease Management Program, which includes phone-based health coaching, goal setting and monitoring

·         Telehealth for baby services

HIFVarious at-home hospital treatments for chemotherapy, rehabilitation, wound management and chronic health disease management
NIBVarious services available, including:

·         Phone-based services for hospital and mental health support

·         Rehabilitation, including intensive physiotherapy following total hip or knee replacements

Union HealthA hospital substitute program is available for services including antibiotic therapy, palliative care, negative pressure therapy and rehabilitation
WestfundVarious services available, including:

·         Hospital care at home, including nursing support, physiotherapy, personal care and meals

·         Rehab at home, including nursing support, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and more

·         Access to a digital Cancer Support Complete program, including video chats and calls with experienced nurses and allied health oncology professionals

Waiting periods and eligibility can vary between providers and programs. Always read the Policy Brochure when comparing and before making a purchase. Table only includes providers from Compare the Market’s panel. We do not compare all products in the market and at times not all brands may be available.

Mr Fleming said that while Australians who don’t yet have hospital cover will need to sit the relevant waiting periods before they can benefit from at-home care with their insurer, it’s worth considering if you think you’ll need care from home in the near future.

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“Like all insurance products, health policies require you to serve a waiting period before you can claim,” Mr Fleming explained. “However, for people with chronic conditions or who anticipate undergoing major surgery in the near future, we know that policies boasting at-home care can be a life-changer.”

It’s worth noting that Medicare can cover some telehealth costs for appointments with GPs, specialists, nurse practitioners, obstetricians, registered midwives and allied health professionals. This is another alternative for Australians who aren’t comfortable visiting hospitals or doctor practices amid the current COVID-19 crisis.

Meanwhile, Mr Fleming said that the Australian Government also offers two at-home healthcare services for older Australians, but people may still be subject to public waiting lists.

“The Australian Government does offer a few at-home services, but like most things in the public system, you’ll usually be added to a list and need to wait before you can access the service,” Mr Fleming explained.

“The first, the Commonwealth Home Support Programme, is designed to help eligible seniors remain independent by giving them access to at-home nursing, physiotherapy, podiatry and other health services. People need to fill out an application form on the My Aged Care website and a service will be provided after an assessment, approval and availability.”

For those with more complex health issues, the Home Care Packages Program is also available. Similar to the Commonwealth Home Support Programme, this service can provide home modifications, equipment, personal care, nursing, allied health and physiotherapy to those in need.

“The Home Care Packages Program works on a level system – 1 being the lowest for basic care and 4 the highest for those with the most complex needs,” Mr Fleming said. “This is a high-demand service, so once you successfully register with My Aged Care, you’ll be referred for an assessment which you’ll complete in person at your home. You could then be waiting some time before you’re given access to the program.

“This is where health insurance can come in handy. Even for those who don’t yet have a policy, you can sometimes access at-home care quicker than you would if you waited in the public system.”

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avatar of author: Phillip Portman

Written by Phillip Portman

When he’s not busy writing, Phillip can usually be found at the movies, playing with his Italian Greyhound Wilma, hanging out with his cockatiel Tiki, or talking about everything pop culture. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Journalism and has previously written about health, entertainment, and lifestyle for various publications. Phillip loves to help others and hopes that people learn something new from his articles.

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