A Guide to Student Health Insurance in Australia
An analysis done by Frank Health Insurance (an Australian health fund) found that university students in Australia have one of the lowest health claim rates in the population. This applies not only to the hospital side of healthcare (such as emergency care) but also to preventative and ongoing aspects of healthcare such as dental and physiotherapy.
Why don’t students make health claims?
Generally younger individuals are healthier than the elderly, which means fewer visits to the hospital and fewer ongoing conditions to be treated. The Australian government has completed studies on this demographic and penalized health funds that have too many young people for this very reason. But while this is a factor, it does not account for the increased health claim rates among young individuals before they begin university. Three key reasons for the low numbers of student health claims have been identified:
1. A lack of understanding about student health insurance policy benefits
Students who move from their parents’ health policy often do not understand the benefits of their own student health insurance policy and the amount they can claim. While most students have a top-line understanding of what their student health insurance policy includes, there is generally confusion surrounding benefit details, raising questions such as:
- Will they be covered for preventative services such as seeing a dentist or getting prescription sunglasses?
- How much can they claim each year for these services?
- How does the annual cycle of health claims work?
While those who are used to owning a health insurance policy will have experience in making sure they maximize their claims before key cut-off periods, students will often not realize these key dates and entitlements.
Overseas students tend to make even fewer health claims than the average Australian university student. Purchasing overseas student health insurance in Australia is a compulsory criterion in order to obtain a student visa, so all international students in Australia do own a health policy. But while most international students know they are covered for some hospital elements, they do often do not realize the full extent of their entitlements as policy holders.
2. Students lose their health routine
Moving from home and starting university is an exciting step, and a significant lifestyle change. University students deal with a number of competing priorities, which can often lead to preventative health measures falling to the wayside. Regular health checks such as the ideal bi-annual dentist visits can be easily forgotten.
3. Living on a student budget can be tough
It is common for university students to experience a degree of financial struggle, due to the fact that they do not work full-time and have far more expenses compared to their school days. With limited resources, they will often overlook any service (such as seeing a physiotherapist) that will eat into their student budget.
It is important for students to understand that with health insurance, they can make use of these health services with minimal out-of-pocket expenses. For example, some health funds have alliances with specific providers (such as optometrists) that minimize the cost gap or cover 100% of the service. Students just need to call their health fund and discuss what options are available to minimize the amount they will need to pay.
Five tips to get the most out of health insurance in Australia:
1. Plan ahead
Before starting university create a health management schedule and add it to your calendar. Create reminders for when it’s time to see the dentist or go to gym.
2. Understand what you can claim
Talk to your health insurer about your policy entitlements and how to make these health claims. You may be surprised to see many elements such as massage included!
3. Research the health claims cycle
Most benefits of health insurance in Australia operate on an annual cycle and are reset each year. Understanding this cycle means that towards the deadline you can see what benefits you are yet to claim, and can then consider those services.
4. Research nearby health service providers
Generally health service providers in Australia, such as dentists, will charge different prices for the same service. Doing some research and discussing options with your health insurer can help minimize the damage to your student budget.
5. Ensure you have the right student health insurance policy
The cheapest student health insurance policy is not always the right one for you. Work out what you do and do not need and then compare the options available. You do not want to pay for what you don’t need, but you also do not want to be end up going way beyond your student budget because your cover is inadequate.