The Courier-Mail

Stay calm and make extras pay

If you’re paying extras for your health insurance, you should make the most of it, writes Anthony Keane

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HEALTH insurance payouts for extras claims have jumped 50 per cent in five years, which means somebody’s getting their money’s worth from extras.

So how do you make sure you’re one of them?

An analysis of data by health insurance comparison website comparethe­market.com.au has found that extras payments totalled $1.2 billion in the March quarter, up from $800 million five years earlier and growing at a much faster rate than the number of new members.

Dental claims comprise half the payouts, followed by optical and physiother­apy payouts.

“If you’re not getting as much money back as you had hoped, you’re missing out,” says spokeswoma­n Abigail Koch. There are several ways to collect some extra benefits.

Optical cover typically includes an annual limit on returns for prescripti­on glasses or contact lenses.

“You pay for your health insurance every year, so make sure you claim for a new pair of glasses every year. There are some fantastic deals around so your out-of-pocket expenses will be minimal,” Koch says.

Some funds offer 100 per cent back on certain dental work, usually check-ups and preventive treatments such as fluoride, she says. They may even include two sets of treatment sfor each person on the policy each year.

“This means if you have no major dental work coming up, this type of cover could pay for a family’s dental needs for an entire year without any out-ofpocket expense.”

Medibank spokesman Jason Gowie says you should speak to your health fund regularly to work out the most suitable type of extras cover.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, he says. “For example, do you need glasses or contact lenses? Do you play a lot of sport and need physio? Do you have children who all need dental check-ups?”

Some health funds have a network of preferred providers that can deliver members capped fees and discounts.

“You’ll know that your outof-pocket costs will be for dental, optical, physio, chiro, podiatry, natural therapies and acupunctur­e,” Gowie says.

But check the location and number of preferred providers in a health fund’s network.

Are you a fitness fanatic? Some funds may reward youand pay up to $500 a year towards gym membership costs.

“To claim, members need to get their GP to sign a form stating that their gym membership is necessary for their good health,” Koch says.

The best way to work out your expected future needs is to look at where you’ve been spending money in the past.

Health funds have been posting out tax statements to members and some include a detailed claims history too. If yours doesn’t, you can request it from them, says Koch.

“Chances are there will be a heap of treatments in your policy that you haven’t touched.

“If you eliminate things you don’t need, it may see your premium drop. If you’re confused, call a health insurance specialist.”

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Nicole Walsh
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