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News • 18 February 2021

What are waiting periods, anyway?

What Union Health insurance waiting periods could mean for you

At Union Health, we are all about fairness. What’s fair about private health insurance waiting periods, and what do they mean for you? We’re glad you asked! 

Figuring out the world of health insurance can sometimes be tough going, we know, so we’re here to lay it out for you an in easy-reference guide. 

Let’s take a step back and look at the big picture of private health cover waiting periods, and then we’ll talk about what this means for you. 

What are waiting periods, anyway?

All health insurers have waiting periods that are regulated by the Australian Government. Basically, a waiting period is the time you have to wait between taking out health insurance and being allowed to make a claim for any costs you’ve paid for your healthcare. Waiting periods apply to new members who join Union Health, as well as if you want to upgrade to a higher level of cover. 

What’s the point of waiting periods?

We get that waiting periods can be frustrating when you want to claim straight away, but we have them to protect all of our members. How? Well, if we didn’t have waiting periods, it would leave us vulnerable to people who wanted to game the system by joining up, making a claim, and then cancelling their membership. That would cost us a lot of money, sure, but the real concern would then be that premiums would have to go up for all our members to cover those costs. It just wouldn’t be fair, and we are all about keeping private health insurance fair and affordable for as many Australians as possible.

Do I have to serve a waiting period?

Yes, you do, if you’re a new member, or if you change your policy to a higher level of cover to include new services, higher benefits or a lower excess (including if you have upgraded while also transferring from another fund).

Can waiting periods be waived?

Yes, there are some situations where Union Health happily waives those waiting periods. We’ll do that for you if you’re joining us from another health fund and you’ve been on a similar level of cover (and have already served the waiting periods with your previous provider at an equivalent level). 

You are also covered straight away if you have an accident and need to go to hospital, for the services included in your cover. 

There is also a 2018 Australian Government psychiatric service initiative that means you can upgrade your cover to include psychiatric services and get access to them straight away. This is called the lifetime mental health waiting period waiver, and it can only be used once in your lifetime. It was introduced to help people get access to psychiatric services when they need them. You can read more about the lifetime mental health waiting period waiver on the Union Health website.

Our hospital and extras waiting periods explained

Our waiting periods are:

  • two months for all hospital services, home care programs and extras services (including general dental, physiotherapy, massage, chiropractic, speech therapy and more) unless specified otherwise

  • six months for optical items (such as glasses and contact lenses), active health bonus and  midwife services 

  • 12 months for pre-existing ailments or conditions (excluding palliative care, hospital psychiatric services and rehabilitation), pregnancy and birth-related treatment, major dental procedures, orthodontic treatment, orthotics, hearing aids and mechanical health devices

Although they seem pretty straightforward, there are a few factors, as you can see, that affect waiting periods, and how they might apply to you. But what’s important to know if that at Union Health, we are a not-for-profit organisation that exists purely to serve our members — from public servants and tradies to nurses and ambos.

Plus, because we’re backed by TUH, we are part of one of Australia’s most trusted health funds. 

Those waiting periods mean we can keep our premiums affordable, and take good care of our members when they need it most. 

If you’d like to find out more, or to discuss your current cover and any waiting periods, click here to book a call back. 


18 February 2021