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. The purpose of waiting periods is to discourage people from only joining when they need to make a large claim as this would likely result in higher costs for all heath insurance customers.
In some cases, if you switch to a similar or lower level of cover with your current provider, waiting periods won’t apply.
Can you get the waiting period waived and who is offering this?
Some providers waive dental waiting periods as part of a promotion or special offer for new members.
At the time of writing, a number of health insurers, including Medibank, Suncorp and ahm, were 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. Be sure to check the fine print, double check that it covers you for what you need and compare policy prices, otherwise known as premiums and excesses.
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. Some insurance policies include in-patient dental procedures, such as the removal of wisdom teeth at a hospital, as part of the hospital cover.
Extras cover, also called general treatment or ancillary cover, encompasses general treatments that are classified as out-of-hospital care. Common types of extras include dental, optical, psychology and physiotherapy.
Health insurers tend to split dental services into two categories: general and major. 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.
If you need dental surgery or more expensive work then the waiting period tends to be longer. Typically, there’s a 12-month waiting period before you can use your major dental treatment benefits.
Does Medicare cover dental services?
For adults, Medicare does not 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 Pensioner Concession Card issued by Centrelink or by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs or a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, you may be eligible for publicly funded dental care.
The Child Dental Benefits Scheme provides a range of free dental services, including routine checks, cleaning, fillings and extractions for children aged 2 to 17 years old.
What do you need to consider?
You can often find private health insurance special offers that waive some waiting periods for dental care benefits. However, you need 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 best to do your homework and compare your options before you sign on the dotted line.
Image by New Africa, source Shutterstock.