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29% of Aussies with health insurance value their extras the most, with dental services the most claimed service 

5 min read
3 Jan 2020

On average, consumers pay around $2317 for a singles policy and $4264 for couples cover[1]. With the latest increase to health premiums coming into effect from 1 April, policyholders are questioning whether they’re getting value from their cover.[2]

New research reveals that 43 per cent will compare their options and potentially switch to another policy on the back of the premium hikes. Policyholders also point to extras as the most valuable aspect in their cover.

We commissioned a survey of an independent, nationally representative panel of 1000 Australian adults with private health insurance[3] to gauge which aspects of their health cover they value the most and the types of claims they made in 2019.

Respondents were asked what aspects of their health cover they find most valuable. Twenty-nine (29) per cent nominated their extras such as chiro and physio; 26 per cent nominated unexpected health issues such as in-hospital treatment for an accident or injury, and cancer treatment; and 18 per cent nominated the amount they can claim.

While reduced waiting times to get hospital treatment is the most valuable aspect for just 16 per cent of policyholders overall, it’s among the most important for seniors. Nearly a third (30 per cent) of those in their 60s and 28 per cent of over-70s said this was the most valuable part of their health insurance, compared with just nine (9) per cent of under 30s.

The findings also reveal that pregnancy services is an area which is most valuable to a narrow group of policyholders, with just five (5) per cent of respondents saying it’s the most valuable part of their health policy. Many respondents may not have pregnancy included within their private health insurance, and the benefit of pregnancy cover tends to be concentrated to those planning to start or expand their family, making this statistic quite low. Medicare still covers a range of pregnancy and birth-related services, including free care from midwives and obstetricians in public hospitals, community clinics, birth centres or publicly funded homebirth programs; free home visits from midwives after giving birth; and subsidised tests and ultrasound scans[4] – potentially affecting perception of the need to have private health cover.

What Aussies made claims for in 2019

We also found that nearly half (43 per cent) of respondents made just one or two claims to their health insurer in 2019, 39 per cent made 5-10 claims, while 11 per cent made 10-15 claims.

Two-thirds (64 per cent) of respondents or their families used dental services such as major dental, orthodontic and endodontic, and made a claim using their hospital cover. Using coverage for extras, 56 per cent claimed on optical services – which was the highest claimed health service among the older age groups. Over two thirds (68 per cent) of those in their 60s and 63 per cent of over-70s submitted claims for their eye care.

Policyholders also used and claimed against their extras policy for physiotherapy (31 per cent of respondents), chiropractic services (18 per cent), remedial massage (17 per cent) and podiatry or orthotics (13 per cent).

In addition, just three (3) per cent of respondents claimed on dietetics in 2019, while acupuncture was claimed by just six (6) per cent of respondents.

The survey also reveals that the younger the policyholder, the more likely they are to compare and potentially switch policies or insurers: 52 per cent of under 30s admitted to this, compared with 49 per cent of those in their 30s, 30 per cent of those in their 60s, and 26 per cent of over-70s.

Health expert at comparethemarket.com.au Anthony Fleming said: “Health cover can be very valuable when treatment is not covered by Medicare outside of the hospital or patients opt to be treated in a private hospital. Many of these medical treatment bills would otherwise be very expensive without private health cover, and this is when it becomes most valuable to consumers.”

“However, this year’s increase in health insurance premiums prompts a significant proportion of policyholders to seriously consider the importance of their health cover. It’s interesting to see the number of consumers who will shop around, with the view of switching to a more suitable and competitive policy this year. We recommend that Aussies review their cover regularly to make sure it’s still relevant to their needs and circumstances, as well as their back-pocket.”

“Comparethemarket.com.au is a free comparison site that allows Aussies to easily compare a range of health policies and insurers all in one place. We recommend that those who are considering taking out private health insurance or switching to a new policy do so before 1 April when the rate rise takes effect, to enable them to prepay their years’ worth of premiums in advance and lock in their health policy cost for the next year. While this year we will see the smallest rate rise in 19 years, it’s crucial consumers don’t get complacent and remain health- and money-wise in 2020.”

Cost of health services in Australia

Health servicePrice of treatment
Dental oral exam$52-70 for a comprehensive oral examination[5]
Orthodontics$2000-9000 for traditional metal braces[6]
Contact lenses$20-69 for 30 lenses[7]
Laser eye surgery$2600-3700 per eye[8]
Physiotherapy treatment$88-130 for a 30-minute consultation[9]
Chiropractic treatment$60-70 for a standard consult[10]
Remedial massage$100-165 for a 1-hour massage[11]
Podiatry$80-98 for an initial 30-minute consultation

$70-78 for follow-up consultations[12]

Sources

[1] Research commissioned by comparethemarket.com.au and conducted by IPSOS Mori in January 2020. Including singles, couples, family and single-parent family policies. These prices may include the Australian Government Rebate applied to policies as a discount according to an individual’s claimed income tier. Results were not adjusted by IPSOS Mori to normalise for the Australian Government Rebate.
[2] Ministers Department of Health, 2019, https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-greg-hunt-mp/media/the-lowest-private-health-insurance-premium-change-in-19-years
[3] Conducted by Pureprofile – January 2020
[4] Health Direct Australia – Pregnancy, Birth & Baby, https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/medicare-during-pregnancy
[5] Comparethemarket.com.au analysed 4 dental providers: Darlinghurst Dental, Dental Boutique, Method Dental and DentaCare
[6] Comparethemarket.com.au analysed 4 orthodontic providers: Dentistry on Solent, Australia Dental, Dental266, and Clear Choice Orthodontist
[7] Comparethemarket.com.au analysed 4 optical chains: Specsavers, OPSM, Vision Direct and Clearly. 30 optical lenses provides an individual 15 daily wears.
[8] Vision Eye Institute, 2017, https://visioneyeinstitute.com.au/eyematters/laser-eye-surgery-cost/
[9] Comparethemarket.com.au analysed 4 physiotherapy providers: Physiowise, Complete Sports Care, Physio4all and Inspired Physiotherapy.
[10] Comparethemarket.com.au analysed 4 chiropractic providers: Simply Health, The Back Clinic, Wellspring Chiropractic, and North Shore Chiro.
[11] Comparethemarket.com.au analysed 4 massage providers: Physio4all, Entegrahealth, Health Space and Anytime Physio.
[12] Comparethemarket.com.au analysed 4 podiatry practices: Moving Forward Podiatry, Victorian Foot Clinic, Podicare and Galleria Podiatry.
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Written by Hannah Twiggs

Hannah (or Twiggs as she's known by most of her colleagues) is a non-stop talker, avid snack eater, dog lover and passionate writer. When she's not chatting to journalists or writing up new story angles, Hannah enjoys a good Netflix binge, going away camping with friends and big brunches - preferably with extra bacon.

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