Health insurance 101

You see heaps of commercials for private health insurance on TV and while there’s a chance you have it, who really understands what it’s all about? Private health insurance is an exciting industry, making changes to improve people’s lives by researching disease prevention and adopting medical technology, not to mention bringing in billions of dollars a year.

What is health insurance?

Private health insurance can provide financial compensation and assistance to people who are admitted to hospital, or need general treatment. Private health cover provides a level of relief from the expense of hospital visits and medical treatments.

There are two different kinds of private health insurance: hospital policies that cover you when you go to hospital and general treatment policies that cover treatments like dental and physiotherapy. Most health funds offer a packaged policy that includes both hospital and general treatment cover so you only pay for the general treatments you really need.

What's the biggest difference between public health care and private health care?

The biggest difference is that public health care requires you to be treated in the public healthcare system. If you’re in the public system, you can’t choose your doctor or how long you wait for treatment.

Although all Australians and New Zealanders have access to public health care, half the Australian population and 30 per cent of New Zealanders have private health insurance.

What does a career in health insurance look like?

There is wide breadth of roles in the health insurance industry — from data scientists and actuaries to brand marketers, people and culture, sales teams, assessors, claims specialists, underwriters, product developers and digital and technology specialists. There’s also employment opportunities for nurses, doctors and other health practitioners. Whatever your degree might be, spanning health or business, you’re likely to find something that suits in the health insurance industry. There are also roles that don’t require a degree and you’ll find plenty of opportunities for ongoing growth.

How is technology shaping the healthcare industry?

Insurance companies are getting very innovative with technology and health insurance is no exception. For example, health insurance companies are using personal apps and wearable devices, like Fitbits and the Apple Watch, to reward clients that get active for their health with reduced premiums.

Telemedicine is another emerging trend that allows healthcare professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients at a distance using telecommunications technology. Telemedicine is gaining traction with patients and insurers because video-based “visits” are cheaper for everyone.

Finally, insurance professionals will most likely join with other health professionals to offer secure online sites known as ‘patient portals’. These sites will give patients access to their personal health information like prescriptions and test results, as well as introduce online medical coaches that could help them meet their health needs. We can drive ourselves crazy trying to self-diagnose on websites like WebMD, but patient portals that make authoritative health information available will allow patients to feel more confident and in control.