As Australians navigate through the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, many may be starting to ask the question “Is having private health insurance worth it right now?” GMHBA General Manager of Private Health Insurance, Tony Hall explains the value of private health insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With some elective surgeries cancelled, losses of jobs or income and most Australians now confined to home, it is understandable that many may start to question or review ongoing expenses, especially ones in which the perceived value may have decreased at this time.
Now more than ever, access to the best health care and quality health cover is vital. There are many reasons why keeping your health cover is important during this strange and uncertain time.
Private hospital admissions
It’s important to remember that 50 per cent of admissions into private hospitals are not elective.
So, although some elective surgeries have been put on hold at this time, GMHBA still anticipates the same volumes of urgent and emergency admissions into the private system.
People in the community will still need hospital treatment for diseases and illnesses apart from COVID-19, and private health insurance will still cover them for these treatments.
GMHBA will continue to fund vital treatments and surgeries including heart failure, cardiac surgery, infants at risk, neurosurgery, dialysis, mental health, pregnancy, oncology and chemotherapy treatment to name a few. And members are still able to choose their own specialist for continuity of care.
If GMHBA members are admitted to hospital for treatment, they still have the option of electing to be treated as a private patient.
This also includes for COVID-19, as we have confirmed as part of our member support package that GMHBA will cover all members with hospital cover for COVID-19 related hospitalisations, regardless of their level of cover.
Easing the strain on the public system
Ensuring we have resources available in our public hospitals to be able to manage COVID-19 is more critical than ever. Private hospitals play a key role in supporting this, by helping free up resources and the growing strain that our public health system is about to face.
In Geelong, where GMHBA and many of our members are based, we have one public hospital to service an entire region. This is one example of where our private system can help to ease the load where possible, to ensure there is enough equipment, beds and staff available for our public hospital to be able to deal with COVID-19.
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, we may even see more admissions into private hospitals, to help free up more resources in our public hospitals that will largely be managing COVID-19 presentations.
We also expect an uplift of non-COVID-19 related private hospital admissions for our more vulnerable community members, such as the elderly, at this time.
When the worst of the pandemic subsides and life starts to return to normal, we anticipate the demand for elective surgery will likely rebound and create a huge bottleneck in our health system.
Having private health insurance means our members can avoid public hospital waiting lists that may be even longer than normal, by having access to the right care they need, at the right time.
Changes in service provision for allied health
As we enter a new realm of technology with many more people working from home than ever before, so too do allied health service providers such as physiotherapists and psychologists.
Even with social distancing measures in place, it’s important that our members can continue to receive the treatment they need during this time.
Many allied health services are still operating and GMHBA has introduced access to new ancillary benefits for a wide range of telehealth services.
Telehealth consultations are considered to be safe, effective and are the right thing to do to reduce infection rates in our community. They provide members with vital continuity of care from the safety of their homes.
GMHBA will also continue to cover members for other ancillary services such as emergency dental as we would normally.
We’ll get through this together
For members who need it, there are alternative measures GMHBA has already put in place to assist instead of being forced to drop their health cover.
We’ve put our 1 April premium increases on hold and are offering hardship suspensions for members who are experiencing financial hardship. We’ve also waived the minimum suspension period so if members need to reactivate their policy, they can do so at any time.
We encourage all members to discuss their options with us if they need support, before dropping their health cover.
GMHBA will continue to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and determine how we can best assist and support our members over both the short and long term.
Although life is very different for all Australians right now, what hasn’t changed is GMHBA’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of our members and the true value of private health insurance.
GMHBA is now a health care company as well as a health insurer, delivering eye care, dental care and general practice services, and offering members a range of health and wellness services. GMHBA General Manager of Health Services, Dr Sarah Leach explains why prevention, early intervention and individualised care is so important.