What is a waiting period?
When you sign up to a health insurance policy, there is usually a waiting period during which no benefit is payable for services and treatment. According to PrivateHealth.gov.au, the purpose of waiting periods is to discourage people from making a large claim soon after joining a fund and then cancelling their membership. This is because this type of behaviour would likely result in higher costs for all health insurance customers.
In some cases, if you switch to a similar or lower level of cover with a different provider, you will not need to re-serve any waiting periods you’ve already completed.
Who offers no waiting period on dental treatments?
At the time of writing, ahm is the only provider in our database to offer dental cover without a waiting period as a standard feature of some of its policies. It currently offers three extras policies with no waiting period for general dental. These are its Family Extras, Lifestyle Extras and Super Extras products.
Other providers may waive dental waiting periods as part of a promotion or special offer for new members.
At the time of writing, Canstar’s database shows a number of health insurers offering to waive two- and six-month waits on services like dental, optical and physio if you sign up to their combined hospital and extras cover. We’ve rounded up some of the sign-up offers available this month. Be sure to check the fine print, double-check that the policy as a whole covers you for what you need and compare policy prices (premiums and excesses). Keep in mind that other waiting periods (including a 12-month waiting period on some dental services) may apply, depending on the insurer and policy you choose.
What types of dental cover are there?
Dental cover can be found in health funds’ hospital cover and extras cover. Hospital and extras are the two main types of private health insurance in Australia.
Hospital cover generally includes coverage for in-hospital doctor and specialist fees and hospital accommodation costs. For example, if you are removing your wisdom teeth in hospital, your hospital cover may contribute towards the costs of your hospital accommodation and some doctor charges, such as for an anaesthetist, although it may not cover dentists’ or oral surgeons’ fees.
Extras cover, also called general treatment or ancillary cover, typically encompasses general treatments that are classified as out-of-hospital care. It may also help cover some in-hospital costs, such as dentists’ and oral surgeons’ fees for tooth extractions. Common types of extras include dental, optical, psychology and physiotherapy.
Health insurers tend to split dental services into two categories: general dental and major dental. General dental usually covers common procedures such as teeth cleanings, check-ups and small fillings, while major dental typically covers complex and expensive procedures such as wisdom teeth removal, root canals and braces.
Depending on what extras cover you choose, you can be covered for both general and major dental services.
What is the waiting period for dental benefits?
It is common for health insurers to apply a two-month waiting period before you can claim for general dental care. For example, of the insurers in Canstar’s database at the time of writing, the average waiting period for general dental is two months, the maximum waiting period is six months and the minimum is no waiting period.
If you need dental surgery or more expensive work, then the waiting period tends to be longer. According to Canstar’s database, on average there is a 12-month waiting period before you can use major dental treatment benefits. The minimum major dental waiting period offered by insurers in our database is two months.
Does Medicare cover dental services?
For adults, Medicare does not typically cover dental treatment, except if your dental condition threatens your general health. It can differ from state to state, but if you have a type of concession card such as a Health Care Card, a Pensioner Concession Card issued by Centrelink or by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, or a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, you may be eligible for publicly funded dental care. Eligibility and treatment options can vary depending on your state or territory. It’s also important to be aware that there may be long waiting lists for public dental care.
The Child Dental Benefits Scheme provides a range of free dental services, including routine checks, cleaning, fillings and extractions for children aged two to 17 years old.
What do you need to consider when taking out dental health insurance?
You can often find private health insurance special offers that waive some waiting periods for dental care benefits. However, it’s important to consider how the premiums compare with the rest of the market, when the offer ends, which dental services are covered by the waived waiting period, whether the special offer provides the cover you’re looking for and other terms and conditions associated with the policy. It is generally best to do your homework and compare your options before you sign on the dotted line.
Main image source: New Africa (Shutterstock).