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Do I need health insurance extras?

Everyone has to have private health cover these days. With its 30 percent rebate and penalty system for late uptake of private cover for the 30-plus age bracket, the Government is encouraging Australians to take on more of the cost burden of providing for citizens’ health needs. But is healthcare getting cheaper? When did you last go to the dentist? For specialist services – such as dental, physiotherapy and so forth – that occasional consultation can really hit the hip pocket hard. While a dentist can charge $180 without blinking, your eye specialist could hit you up for $500 for those new glasses. It may be for this reason that extras cover is made increasingly attractive. But is it really worth the additional cost? Or are you better off just paying the big bucks if and when you need to? Here’s an outline of what you get for your money.

What’s it cost?

Health insurance policies that offer extras bundle different offerings into a package that includes a range of attractive, relatively low-cost services alongside the more standard and costly personal care items (dental and eye care). They will generally cover general non-hospital treatments not covered by Medicare, and those delicious complementary treatments – perhaps a massage, gym membership, acupuncture or other natural therapies.

What are the costs? You can get extras cover for as little as $10 a month, right up to about $70 a month (on top of your basic hospital cover). Cover for a family is around $50 a month but can go up to around $130 a month. It may not sound like a huge sum compared with the prices of individual consultations but before you sign up sit down and workout how often you really go and then balance that against how much you can claim back. It maybe 50 percent of that particular service, 80 percent or is it just 30? Will you really go often enough to justify the monthly fee?

What kind of extras?

Not surprisingly, if you are prepared to pay a higher monthly premium then you will be offered more services to claim against. They include: major dental (root canal, crowns etc), podiatry, diet counseling, speech pathology, occupational therapy, naturopathy, remedial massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, osteopathy, appliances such as nebulisers, clinical psychology, and school student cover (accidents). More niche providers also offer homeopathy, Chinese herbs, reflexology, shiatsu, braces, splints, orthodics, aromatherapy and hearing aids.

Now, that may all sound like a great deal – but chances are you and your family are like the wider population: what you really need is extras cover that includes dental and optometry. The rest? It’s just pretty sparkles on an already iced cake AKA marketing hype intended to distinguish one product from another and, perhaps, squeeze a few extra dollars out of you for things you don’t really need (and won’t use!). Buyer beware. Sit down with a pen and paper and work out your real costs are, your “if I was taking better care of myself” costs and find a sum somewhere between the two. Average that sum over twelve months then work out the cost of your insurance. That way you will be able to choose extras cover that it truly representative of your needs, budget and likely use.