Do you really need health insurance in Australia?

by Kylie on April 19, 2012

Health insurance is something I have ummed and aahhhed about in Australia because we have a pretty good medical system in many areas, which is completely free. That is hospital is free, there is access to free therapy and so on.

More and more I have been thinking about taking our private health insurance. The main reason being if anything serious like cancer were to happen to us the public waiting list can be 2 years long, whereas with private you can have it done within weeks.

Obviously with serious cases or massive emergencies you get treated straight away, but it is up to them to determine how serious it is. If you are about to die, then yes it is treated as quickly as possible, but since cancer has various stages you could be in a lower stage but by the time they can fit you in for surgery it may have spread and be in a more serious stage.

I had planned on taking it out last year, but with my husband having issues with work and then us playing catch up once he did get work it kind of fell by the wayside.

Now I am kicking myself.

I need my wisdom teeth out. It will cost $3,000+ If I had health insurance a large portion of that would be covered. I also need a filling now. Health insurance would have covered that. Yes, there is free dental where I am, but I need the filling now, not to wait until I can get it for free, but which time I will probably need root canal (yes, I have been down that road before).

If I had taken out health insurance some of my therapy for BPD would be covered. And now my daughter needs speech therapy at $85 a session, minimum of 2 sessions a week because she has a severe development delay.

All of the cover I looked at would only have covered a small portion of these things, but had I taken out cover a year ago the amount I would have paid in fees is less than I am currently facing needing to payout for everything.

I am still going to take out health insurance. I want the peace of mind that if something major were to go wrong we are first in line to get treated. I want the 2 free dental check ups a year and things like that.

If used properly it does not need to cost a lot. If I take out health insurance now, I may only need to wait a few months before I can claim on some of these things, but the wisdom teeth I won’t be able to for at least 12 months.

Either way, I now have 2 children and the past few weeks with my daughter needing speech therapy and my teeth absolutely killing me with pain I have realized that the healthcare system, while free, is just not set up to be able to provide everyone with the help they need.

Speech therapy has a 2.5 year waiting list in my area. My daughter is classed as high needs for it, yet she would have to wait 2 and a half years, but which time the issues would be extremely hard to fix, if I did not have the money to pay for it.

I am able to apply for and hopefully receive carer’s allowance at $114 a fortnight I think it is for my daughter. I find out in a couple of weeks if I am successful in the claim so that will help. There is also a $50 rebate for 5 sessions a year, so that is another $250. If I had health insurance I would be able to claim money back after using up this rebate so my out of pocket expenses would be minimal.

My thoughts and that of many members of my family always were that health insurance isn’t really necessary here in Australia. I will admit I had both my daughters in the public system, and with my first my midwife managed to get me a private room anyway. I got stabbed in the leg and was seen in the hospital instantly a few years ago. I know if there is an emergency I will get straight into the hospital and treated, but what about everything else?

And with those emergencies, did you know they fix you up enough so you are not dying, but then you have to wait anyway? So say you broke your leg and needed surgery. They would stop any bleeding and stabilize you, then you would have to wait for surgery and it could be a couple of weeks. By which time your bones have started to heal causing more problems.

I am not trying to scare you all or say you HAVE to have health insurance. I am just telling you my experience and thoughts on it and how it has changed. It is completely up to you. For the most part I prefer natural therapies over surgery/medication etc. I am also fortunate that where I live my GP is free and many things are cheaper than other areas. But because of that the wait list for services here is very long.

I’d love to know though if any of you have health insurance? Do you use all the benefits or only claim if you have to? Have you had any good or bad experiences etc?

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