I turned 25 last year. There are many great things about turning 25, like feeling a bit more confident in your skin and suddenly loving pét nat wine. But one not-so-great thing was being unceremoniously kicked off my parents' private health insurance. Even though I'd flown the nest seven years ago, my name had still been listed as a dependant on their health insurance.
This meant losing out on things like subsidised prescription glasses and cheaper trips to the dentist. Now I’m genuinely scared about how much my dental bill will cost the next time I need a check-up.
As I put off my dentist appointment and silently prayed that I won't need an ambulance anytime soon, it got me thinking: Do young people even need health insurance?
What even is health insurance?
In Australia, private health insurance is a form of cover that allows you to be treated in hospitals as a private patient, as well as help pay for healthcare costs that aren’t covered by Medicare, such as dental and optical. You pay regular 'premiums' to stay covered and can choose which policy suits your needs.
It's also totally up to you when and if you take it up. Aside from protecting you from nasty ambulance bills, private health insurance can also help you from a tax perspective if you're making over $90,000 a year, as you may not have to pay the Medicare levy surcharge.
So, do I need it in my twenties?
Thanks to the privilege of youth, most people in their twenties don't think they're going to need the healthcare system a lot. But that doesn't mean that they don't need a safety net.
The leading health issues among young people are mental health-related, followed by alcohol use disorders and road accidents. All of these could lead to hospital stays, which is when that coverage could kick in and make a real difference.
That's why getting a good policy that includes hospital and ambulance cover is important. Insurance providers such as Bupa offer low-cost hospital cover options to back you when accidents do happen.
And if you’re active and play sport, health insurance can also be handy for all those wear and tear issues – just make sure you choose 'Extras cover' for things like physio and chiro. This also covers more holistic treatments like remedial massage, acupuncture as well as Chinese herbal and dietician consultations.
How about my thirties?
A new decade means that it's time to reassess your healthcare needs.
Not to freak you out, but if you turn 31 and don't have health insurance, you'll have to pay an additional 2% 'loading' on top of your premiums when you decide to get insurance, thanks to something called the Lifetime Health Cover. It's unfair (isn't getting older hard enough?) but it's also a good reminder to get your life admin together.
For many people, this may also be the time you start seriously thinking about a family. Check what coverage you can receive for hospital stays needed for both parent and baby.
Ageing is a privilege and so is being responsible enough to take care of your own health. I guess I'd better go and book that dentist appointment before I turn 26.
Please note: the information contained in this column is general in nature and may not apply to your specific individual circumstances. For more information about private health insurance, please go to: https://www.privatehealth.gov.au/