Explore Health Insurance

Health insurance extras policies are a popular insurance product; around 54.5% of Australia’s population had extras cover as of September 2021.1 That’s millions of Aussies covered by extras!

Extras cover can be an important product to take out, so it’s essential to understand how this cover works, the included treatments, waiting periods and costs before deciding on a policy. Furthermore, each extras policy will have different features and limits. So, here’s our guide to extras cover!

What is extras cover?

Extras cover is a type of health insurance that covers you for out-of-hospital medical care. Also called ancillary cover or general treatment, it covers a range of services that aren’t included under the Medicare scheme, for example dental treatment, optometryphysiotherapy, acupuncture and more. They’re typically treatments you may rely on regularly throughout the year and can attract ongoing costs each time you visit.

If you purchase an extras policy, you’ll pay regular premiums to be covered for the services listed in your policy. These services are typically subject to annual and lifetime limits.

Services covered by extras health insurance

Depending on your policy, extras insurance can cover a range of services from accredited or recognised service providers, including health services like:

  • General dental Check-ups, examinations, x-rays, scale and cleans, fillings.
  • Major dental Crowns, bridges, dentures, wisdom teeth removal, veneers, surgical tooth extractions.
  • Orthodontic. Braces, Invisalign, retainers (including fitting and adjustment).
  • Endodontic. Root canal therapy, gum treatment.
  • Optical Glasses, contact lenses, prescription sunglasses.
  • Physiotherapy. Sport or movement exercise therapy for muscles or post-operative.
  • Remedial massage.  Sports or injury treatment, deep tissue massages.
  • Chiropractic. Consultations, x-rays, back manipulation and spinal adjustments for musculoskeletal issues.
  • Podiatry. (e.g. ingrown nails, bunions, corns), ankles and lower limbs – useful for sportspeople and those with walking disorders (e.g. pigeon-toed).
  • Orthotics. Shoe inserts/insoles fitted inside shoes to restore natural foot function.
  • Psychology. Treatment from a psychologist to address mental and physical health issues (some policies only cover treatment from a clinical psychologist).
  • Non-PBS pharmaceuticals. Helps pay for prescription medicine not listed on the government’s Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme (PBS).
  • Lifestyle. Helps pay for approved courses to improve your lifestyle, including programs for quitting smoking, fitness classes, gym memberships or weight management courses.
  • Eye therapy. Treatment or physical therapy for crossed eyes, lazy eyes and double vision.
  • Occupational therapy. Treatment to train people with physical injuries or illness (e.g. re-learning to walk after an accident, restoring function in broken bones or torn limbs).
  • Speech therapy. Assessment and treatment to re-learn to speak after a stroke or to help people with speech disabilities or impediments.
  • Hearing aids. To purchase, repair or replace a device to correct a hearing impairment.
  • Dietician services. Diet, nutrition, weight loss and disease management by a recognised dietician.
  • Health aids and appliances. C-pap machine, blood pressure monitors, crutches and glucose monitors for diabetes management.
  • Ambulance. In many cases, extras can also include ambulance cover, this is dependent on which fund you are with and which state you reside.

Two women out for a run discussing their extras cover options

Are there different levels of health insurance extras cover?

Extras cover is typically available in three different levels. However, this can vary depending on your provider.

Top-level ancillary cover will typically include more extras services and have high payable benefit limits. Also, top-level cover will usually have higher annual limits for your health insurance extras cover. In comparison, lower-level policies (basic or medium extras) may limit you to a smaller range of services and only pay a smaller percentage in rebates.

Basic extras cover

Lower-level basic extras policies may include cover for:

  • General dental
  • Physiotherapy
  • Optical (dependent on provider)

Basic policies may be subject to combined group limits and typically cover a lower percentage of service costs, which is why they generally cost less and have lower premiums than higher-level extras policies.

Who may it suit?

Basic extras may be suitable for young Aussies who don’t have a history of complicated health issues but like to go to optical or dental check-ups regularly, and so would benefit from optical or dental extras cover.

Medium extras cover

Medium-level extras policies usually provide good value for money. These policies will typically include cover for:

  • General dental
  • Major dental
  • Endodontics

These policies will also typically include five of the following:

  • Orthodontics
  • Optical
  • Non-PBS pharmaceuticals
  • Physiotherapy
  • Chiropractic/osteopathy
  • Podiatry
  • Psychology
  • Hearing aids

Medium-level policies typically have higher annual limits than basic policies but aren’t as high as comprehensive policies.

Who may it suit?

If you’re starting to get a bit older and experiencing some health issues or want to take care of your family’s health, a medium-level policy may provide adequate cover for common services at an affordable price.

Top extras cover

Comprehensive extras are the most expensive out of the three levels, but will cover the widest range of healthcare services, have the highest limits and pay the highest percentage on service costs. Top-level comprehensive policies usually include cover for:

  • General dental
  • Major dental
  • Endodontic
  • Orthodontic
  • Optical
  • Non-PBS pharmaceuticals
  • Physiotherapy
  • Podiatry
  • Psychology
  • Acupuncture
  • And potentially more

Who may it suit?

If you or your family have health issues, require costly services (like braces or glasses) and want the peace of mind of higher limits and broader coverage, you may benefit from a comprehensive extras policy.

Man saves on extras cover at chiropractor’s office

How extras health insurance benefits and limits work

All extras policies have benefit limits on how much you can claim per year for each specific treatment.

The amount you’ll be able to receive will depend on which service you’re claiming and the maximum limit your policy provides. Another factor is whether your health fund covers (a) a certain percentage of the costs or (b) benefits up to a set dollar amount.

Percentage limit

Some health funds and their policies cover a percentage of the costs associated with your treatment. For example, your policy may cover up to 60% of your dental costs, and you’ll have to pay the other 40% as a gap payment out of your pocket.

Alternatively, your policy may cover 100% of the costs of listed items (like glasses), although this will likely still be subject to an annual limit.

Dollar limit

Some extras health insurance policies will have a dollar limit on how much you can claim per service, either (a) annually per policy, (b) up to the group limit or sub-limit or (c) per visit or item.

Type of extras limitExample of extras limit
Annual limitYour level of cover could have a yearly limit of $600 per policy to spend on major dental, which means you’ll have to pay for any major dental work that exceeds this limit out of your pocket. Keep in mind that if there are multiple people on one policy, the limit is based on the policy and not people. So if two people on the one policy each require $600 worth of work, the policy would only cover the cost once.
Sub-limitSay you have a sub-limit of $300 for crowns (out of the $600 major dental limit); if you need to spend more than that on crowns, you’ll have to pay for the additional expenses yourself – you won’t receive the full $600 major dental limit for crowns alone.
Combined group limitExtras cover may group services (e.g. major dental, general dental, endodontic),  and have a total limit for all those included services. So, if you have a total limit of $1,000 and spend $800 on dental, you’ll only have $200 left to spend on the other services. Let’s say you’ve got a $500 cover limit on general dental and get a routine clean, you’ll have less to spend on other general dental services.
Per visit/item limitYour policy could have a limit of $150 per pair of glasses or a maximum of $99 on surgical tooth extraction. Or, if you’re receiving physiotherapy, your cover may only cover $34 for your initial visit and $26 for subsequent visits.
Per personIf you have a couples or family extras health insurance policy, you may have additional coverage and higher limits. However, your policy may limit what each person can claim individually.
Service limitThe level of cover you choose may limit how many times you can access certain services. For example, it may have a service limit for dentures (e.g. a full denture replacement is limited to once every three years).
Lifetime limitYour policy may have a dollar-value limit for certain services which doesn’t restart each year (e.g. you may have $3,000 to spend on orthodontics/braces over the lifetime of your policy). Your lifetime limit will stay the same even if you switch health funds or increase your level of extras, which means once you hit it, that’s it.
Read your policy brochure to find out what your specific limits are, and make sure you claim as much as you can throughout the year to get the most value from your policy.

patients sitting in healthcare waiting room before using their extras cover to pay for services

Does my extras cover have waiting periods?

Yes, extras health insurance policies will typically have waiting periods, varying from two months to three years depending on the service and the health fund.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman outlines examples of typical waiting periods for some services in the table below.2

Extras serviceExample of waiting period
General dental, physiotherapy and chiropractic2 months
Optical (e.g. glasses or contact lenses)6 months
Major dental (e.g. crowns, bridges), orthotics and psychology12 months
Orthodontics and hearing aids (i.e. high-cost items/procedures)1 – 3 years

Source: Commonwealth Ombudsman (Private Health Insurance Ombudsman) – Waiting periods for private health insurance. (accessed January 2022)

Unlike hospital benefits, which the government sets, health insurance providers set extras waiting periods themselves and can make waiting periods as long as they want (within reason).

However, this could work in your favour, as you may be able to find a health insurance provider that offers a shorter waiting period than is typical.

You’ll be able to find your waiting periods listed on your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS). Make sure you’re aware of your waiting periods before receiving treatment and trying to claim on services.

Can I get extras cover with no waiting period?

You can potentially shorten your waiting period or get extras cover with no waiting period for particular services. Some health funds allow you to start claiming on higher-level extras cover straight away with no waiting period, while some have promotions from time to time that waive extras cover waiting periods to attract more members.

However, waivers usually only occur on certain policies or services (e.g. health funds may have promotions that state no two or six-month waiting periods on included extras).

Some of the extras services that may waive waiting periods include:

  • Routine dental
  • Physiotherapy
  • Chiropractic
  • Natural therapies.

That said, you’re unlikely to get waiting periods waived on more expensive services like major dental or orthodontics.

Is extras cover worth it?

Extras cover can be worth it if you regularly visit non-Medicare services (like your optometrist or chiro) or if you want to avoid any surprise expenses. Based on the number of claims you make on your policy every year, an extras policy can be good value for money. Most Aussies can find at least one feature in an extras policy they would benefit from year-round.

For example, if you don’t want to pay for dental check-ups yourself or you play sports and need regular physiotherapy appointments, you could benefit from an extras policy. Or, if you have children who may require braces or glasses, having extras health insurance could help pay for these expensive products and services.

So, if you find a policy that’s within your budget and covers the services that are important to you, taking out extras cover can be worth it to help manage your out-of-pocket expenses.

young boy receiving dental treatment through family extras cover

How much does extras cover cost?

Extras cover generally costs less than hospital insurance. However, your extras cover premiums do depend on which level of extras you get and who it covers. For example, extras policies that cover a variety of services with high limits will command a higher premium, while lower-level policies may cost less. If eligible, you may also be able to lower your costs by applying the Australian Government Rebate to your premiums.

Also, family extras cover will naturally cost more than single policies, as it will have higher limits and cover more people.

We’ve compiled some example prices below to give you an idea of how much extras cover may cost you.

Cost range per monthCost range per year
Extras policy for a single person*$14.17 to $112.05$170.08 to $1345.05
Extras policy for a family^$28.35 to $276.85$340.17 to $3322.35

*Based on extras cover quotes for a single, 30-year-old Queensland male who is eligible for the full government rebate. Compared through our health insurance comparison service in January 2022. Age-based discount and lifetime health cover loading do not apply.

^Based on extras cover quotes for a family in QLD (including two partners aged 30 years old and three dependent children) who are eligible for the full Australian Government rebate. Compared through our health insurance comparison service in January 2022. Age-based discount and lifetime health cover loading do not apply.

Frequently asked questions

When will limits renew?

Limits on your extras policy will renew every year. This will either be on a membership, financial or calendar year, depending on the fund you’re with. Read your PDS or contact your insurer for this information, as it can vary between policies and providers.

Can I avoid the Medicare Levy Surcharge by taking out extras cover?

While extras cover won’t exempt you from the Medicare Levy Surcharge, you may be eligible for  the Australian Government Rebate, which can be claimed through your tax return or as a reduced premium. However, the actual rebate amount will depend on your age, income and whether you’re claiming for yourself or a couple or family.

Can I get extras cover with a pre-existing condition?

Yes, you can get hospital and extras cover with a pre-existing condition. While you may have longer waiting periods on hospital cover with such a condition, this rule doesn’t apply to extras cover. This means typical waiting periods will apply to your extras cover, even with a pre-existing condition.

How are health insurance extras benefits paid?

In terms of your health insurance extras benefits, you can either:

  • Claim benefits on the spot by swiping your health insurance membership card at the service provider who have a HICAPS terminal
  • Claim benefits online (and in some instance mobile app) and be reimbursed after you have paid for your service. Ensure that you keep any receipts as your health fund may request this as proof of claim
  • Claim benefits by visiting your health funds nearest branch, keeping in mind that not all health funds have branches.

Can I get an extras health insurance policy for a couple or family?

Yes, you can typically get extras health insurance for singlescouplesfamilies and single parents. Health insurance for couples, families and single parents will usually have higher limits and may even have further benefits (e.g. gap free cover for kids).

However, while you may have higher limits, it doesn’t mean benefits are interchangeable. You’ll also typically have a claim limit to use per person, even on family, couples or single parent policies.

Should I get extras cover, hospital cover or combined cover?

Everyone’s needs and budgets are different, which means it’s hard to say which type of policy you should get, whether it’s a hospital, extras or a combined policy.  A combined policy joins the two types of insurance – hospital and extras – under one policy, so you can be treated both in and out of hospital by a range of healthcare providers.

If you want to keep on top of your health, extras can provide benefits for preventative and ongoing treatment. However, you may be more concerned about needing in-hospital surgery (like for a knee replacement), in which case hospital insurance might be your preference.

However, you don’t necessarily have to choose one or the other. If a combined hospital and extras policy is within your budget, it can give you the benefits of both types of health insurance. A combined policy will also give you the peace of mind that you won’t have to pay for all of your healthcare when the time comes.

Compare health insurance extras policies

Comparing extras cover is one of the most effective ways to make sure you find a suitable extras policy.

Our private health insurance comparison tool allows you to compare extras cover from some of Australia’s largest health insurers in minutes, all in one place.

You’ll be able to see different policies side-by-side and compare which policies have higher limits and better coverage for the ancillary services you’ll actually use.

If you’re ready to purchase extras cover, compare your options today.

Sources

1. APRA – Statistics: Quarterly Private Health Insurance Statistics, September 2021. (Accessed January 2022)
2. Commonwealth Ombudsman (Private Health Insurance Ombudsman) – Waiting periods for private health insurance. (accessed January 2022)

Anthony Fleming, General Manager

Meet our health insurance expert, Anthony Fleming

As General Manager for Health Insurance and Life Insurance at Compare the Market, Anthony Fleming is passionate about helping Australians better understand health insurance and unlock value from their policies by more effectively their extras cover. He hopes that by taking advantage of the benefits extras cover provides (like physiotherapists, dieticians and dentists), Australians can lead healthier lives.

Anthony has over 17 years’ experience working in various roles across the health and general insurance industries. He’s also a Board Member of the Private Health Insurance Intermediaries Association and has appeared on Sunrise and Channel Seven News on behalf of Compare the Market.

Anthony’s top tips for extras health insurance

  • Keep an eye out for the individual limits (the amount you can claim) but also how much you get back per visit. Let’s take physiotherapy for example, some choose to have higher limits with lower returns as they go frequently, whilst others opt for a smaller limit with big returns as they might only visit now and then.
  • Some health funds have ‘preferred providers’ that they have agreements with for common extras services such as dental and physiotherapy. These agreements usually provide members with more transparent pricing and reduced costs due to better negotiations. Just keep in mind that if you go to a provider outside of these agreements, there is the possibility that your returns won’t be as strong.
  • The amount you can claim back on extras resets annually. It’s worth knowing that the definition of annual varies depending on the fund you’re with. The vast majority of funds refresh at the end of the calendar year, whilst others are based on the financial year or your membership year. Check your policy details to ensure you know when they reset so you can get the most value out of your cover.

So, what are you waiting for?

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