Medicare & health insurance
LIKE a will, HEALTH INSURANCE is one of those things in life that we don’t always like to think about.
Thanks to changes in the law in recent years, lesbian couples are recognised as de facto partners and their children as dependents by Medicare, which entitles them to register as a family for the purpose of the Medicare Safety Net.[i]
The Medicare Safety Net can give you a higher Medicare benefit for eligible services, meaning you pay less of your own money for medical services. To benefit from the Medicare Safety Net as a couple for family, you have to register with Medicare. A family includes a couple in a de facto relationship, with or without dependent children. Single lesbians may also be eligible.
Because the government recognises lesbian couples for Medicare benefits, private health insurers must also treat lesbian couples the same as heterosexual couples. Lesbians can have the same health insurance coverage and protection for their partners and children as heterosexual couples have. Most private health insurers now actively advertise to attract lesbian couples and families to take out insurance.
As well as the medical benefits, there are other financial benefits of having private health insurance. As a couple, you can avoid the Lifetime Health Cover loading (which at the time of writing is 2% of the cost of your health insurance for every year over the age of 31 that you don’t have adequate coverage). You can also avoid the government’s Medicare Levy Surcharge (of 1%, 1.25% and 1.5%) if you and your partner’s combined income is more than $180,000 a year.[ii] It also means you may only have one premium to pay on your policy and one policy to maintain.
If you and your partner are thinking about having children and you want private health insurance, then you should take out a policy as soon as possible. Most private health insurance companies have a twelve-month waiting period on pregnancy coverage, so you need to serve the waiting period before you are covered for IVF, pregnancy, and birth.
For further information on the administration of the Medicare Safety Net, visit the Medicare Australia website at:
Summary of Main Points:
Lesbian couples are recognised as a de facto relationship and their children as dependants by Medicare, which entitles them to register as a family for the purpose of the Medicare Safety Net.
Private health insurers must also treat lesbian couples the same as heterosexual couples. Buying private health insurance coverage has many advantages for lesbian couples and families.
[i] Department of Health: Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws – General Law Reform) Act 2008 (September 2014), viewed 4 October 2016, http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/samesexbill
[ii] Australian Taxation Office: Income thresholds and rates for the Medicare levy surcharge (August 2016), viewed 4 October 2016, https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/medicare-levy/medicare-levy-surcharge/income-thresholds-and-rates-for-the-medicare-levy-surcharge/
Note to readers: This information is intended as a guide to the law and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice. While every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained here is as up to date and accurate as possible, the law is complex and constantly changing (particularly relating to same-sex parenting) and readers are advised to seek legal advice in relation to their situation.