Prevention is best: how to get more back with HCF extras

Health Agenda
Research & Insights

Prevention is best: how to get more back with HCF extras

Updated January 2024 | 8 min read
Expert contributors Dr Anjali Didi, general practitioner; Julie Macey, Head of Ancillary Benefits, HCF
Words by Kerry McCarthy
Updated by Georgia Lejeune

Your private health cover isn’t just for when you’re sick – it can also keep you healthier for longer. Here’s how to get more value out of your HCF extras.

The start of a new year is a time that many people create resolutions to take with them into the year ahead. And what better resolution is there than to create or resume healthy habits that can support your health and wellbeing? But with the cost of living rising, getting value for money has never been more important, including making your private health cover work as hard as it can to keep you as healthy as possible.

It’s easy to overlook those regular GP check-ups or skip an appointment for physiotherapy or remedial massage when the budget is tight. Some of us only go to the dentist for a toothache or talk to a mental health professional when things aren’t okay.

But the reality is that many serious health conditions can be prevented if caught early and addressed with the right medical help. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reported that in 2020 to 2021, 83,000 serious dental problems that required hospitalisation could’ve been prevented with early intervention.

The new year is a timely reminder to book in those regular check-ups that might help prevent certain health issues from occurring.

From podiatry to physio, a range of health providers can be included in your list of private health cover extras, depending on your cover. These providers are there to support your physical and mental health and to keep you healthy now and into the future.

As Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund, reinvesting in the health of our members is our top priority and we genuinely want you to get great value cover. Over the past 10 years we’ve given an average of nearly 90 cents in every dollar spent on premiums back to members – more than any other health fund*.

When you visit one of HCF’s no-gap providers, eligible members will receive 100% back^ on a range of preventive and diagnostic services.

In fact, in FY 2022 to 2023, we covered over 2.5 million no-gap dental treatments, saving members an average of $180 in out-of-pocket costs+. This is just one of the ways we’re delivering great value to support our members, a commitment that earned us Canstar's Outstanding Value Health Insurance award for the eighth year running (2016 to 2023).

"Extras cover can really nudge people to get seen early," says Julie Macey, Head of Ancillary Benefits at HCF. "No one wants to go to the hospital to get the value from their health insurance, but we all want to know that we can keep our teeth and mouth healthy, see a physiotherapist, get glasses or contacts if we need them, or have a remedial massage when we’re all tensed up and wonky."

When does HCF extras reset?

Aside from a few exceptions (which depend on your cover), most annual limits for HCF extras cover refresh on 1 January each year. This gives you a clean slate to book in those appointments you might have missed in the previous 12 months. Log in to the new and improved My Membership app to manage your health cover on the go – understand what you're covered for and how much of your annual limits you have remaining.

Dental check-ups for children

An important area of ongoing good health is dental health. And if you can get your children into the regular habit of dental check-ups, the better chance they have for healthy smiles.

As well as the ongoing importance of teaching kids good gum and teeth routines, catching tooth decay as early as possible can help prevent painful and costly treatments in the future.

"Good oral health has ‘whole of body’ outcomes, from childhood to older years," says Julie. "And there’s evidence that bad oral health can impact your heart health and pregnancy, for example."

Experts recommend taking children to the dentist from about three years old to get them comfortable with the environment. Talk to your dentist about what they offer children on your extras cover and don’t forget about orthodontics services for older children – these are also included on some levels of cover.

Health interventions for adults

Sydney-based GP Dr Anjali Didi, who specialises in women’s health, geriatrics, nutrition and gut health, says around 75% of the cases she sees daily could be prevented.

"Obesity is the biggest factor," says Dr Didi, who blames our overly sedentary lifestyles. "We’ve had a metabolic change due to the lack of incidental exercise we’re doing, so we're seeing people's cholesterol markers a little bit higher. Just a 5% increase in your weight can change blood pressure and cholesterol readings."

Research tells us that obesity is linked to many serious and chronic health conditions. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) estimates that if we all moved for one extra hour per week, we could reduce the impact of diseases attributed to physical inactivity by 16% by 2030.

"Leaving obesity as it is increases our risk of stroke, heart disease, and arthritis in the hips, feet and knees," says Dr Didi.

The best way to prevent obesity is to maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise, but if you need extra help and guidance, you’re not alone. If you’d like to lose weight, it’s never too late to start building healthier habits. To support you on your journey to better health, we offer our members access to several evidence-based weight management programs that include expert-led health coaching, nutritional guidance and exercise plans.

"Obesity is a chronic condition, not a lifestyle event," says Dr Didi, who can provide patients with care plans and referrals to allied health professionals. "These include exercise physiologists for certain conditions. If we need to, we can actively manage obesity with lifestyle and medications."

How to support our bones and posture

If you have an office job or work from home, you probably spend most of your day sitting in front of a computer, which is why an ergonomic desk set-up and regular physical activity are so important to support joint health and mobility. The AIHW reports that physical inactivity was the ninth-leading cause of ill health and premature death in 2018 and was responsible for 2.5% of total disease burden in Australia.

Musculoskeletal conditions, including back pain and other conditions that cause pain, discomfort or reduced mobility in the joints, bones and muscles, are the leading cause for rehabilitation service use in two-thirds of all adults accessing rehab and the leading cause for children.

You may be able to help prevent musculoskeletal conditions by:

  • making sure your desk and chair set-up is correct for your height
  • taking regular breaks from sitting
  • stretching
  • doing regular, low-impact exercise like walking or swimming
  • visiting health professionals like physiotherapists and massage therapists, who can provide back and muscle support.

Good health for younger Australians

Affordability shouldn't be a barrier for young Aussies accessing quality healthcare. According to HCF’s latest research, 78% of Australians prioritise dental and teeth whitening, with optical (41%) and mental health services (40%) making up the top three most important services desired in their private health cover.

Value for money and flexibility are the top priorities for this age group when choosing a health fund, which is why HCF’s Flex My Extras offers affordable and easy-to-use extras cover designed for singles and couples aged 18 to 39.

Flex My Extras offers 100% back^ on a dental check-up, a flexible single limit of $650 for other services, plus a $175 optical limit every year, giving members the freedom to spend their limits on the extras that are important to them. The research shows that Millennials are more likely to prioritise dental and teeth whitening and optical, whereas Generation Z considers mental health services a top priority.

HCF CEO, Sheena Jack says, "At a time when budgeting and cost cutting are paramount, affordable flexible health cover has never been more relevant. Flex My Extras empowers our younger members to create tailored cover that delivers the value they genuinely want."

Good health for older Australians

As we age, we’re more susceptible to certain diseases and injuries, many of which can be prevented if we plan ahead.

Stephen, 65, from Brisbane says he didn’t realise he had a hearing issue until his wife and children pointed it out.

"I honestly hadn’t noticed. I always put it down to the TV being too loud or the grandchildren chatting away. I was reluctant to have a test, but my wife insisted. I was shocked when my hearing specialist said I needed hearing aids."

While most types of hearing loss are permanent, intervention can help improve quality of life almost immediately. Through our partnership with Connect Hearing, HCF members can get up to 100% back* or a reduced cost on a range of high-quality hearing aids (one every three years).

Regular eye checks can also help detect many serious conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and even certain cancers.

On 1 January 2024, we increased a number of optical benefits on eligible extras cover for frames, lenses and contact lenses so you can claim your full optical annual limit when you claim. Check your limits by logging in to the My Membership app or calling us on 13 13 34.

Preventive health for feet

Another part of the body that benefits from regular check-ups is one of the hardest working but often ignored – our feet.

Diabetes puts people at risk of losing feeling in their feet, which means they can injure their feet without realising.

"Lower limb issues like hip pain and knee pain might be due to the distribution of weight on your feet," explains Dr Didi, who advises you see a podiatrist every 12 months if you’re concerned.

When should I look for help for my mental health?

Early intervention with matters of mental health, particularly in young people, can help create more positive outcomes, meaning you don’t have to have a diagnosed mental health disorder before you ask for help. According to Beyond Blue, around half of Aussies will struggle with their mental health during their lifetime, which is why HCF increased the cover of mental health services on selected extras to ensure more people can access the support they need when they need it.

"When I talk about mental health most people think about the Netflix series they’ve watched that addresses very severe disorders," says Dr Didi. "But the two core symptoms of depression would be a loss in interest of doing things that you normally enjoy and a feeling of persistent sadness or fatigue."

Members who have eligible extras cover can now claim consultations with a psychologist (if you don’t already have a Medicare Mental Health Treatment Plan or you’ve used up your visits), an HCF-approved counsellor or an accredited mental health social worker. We also provide cover for some online cognitive behavioural therapy programs delivered by This Way Up#.

Taking control of your mental wellbeing is now faster and easier with a free HealthyMinds Check-in with a registered PSYCH2U psychologist available for all eligible HCF members**.

If you're struggling with depression or anxiety, and need to speak to someone now, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Why early action and prevention are always best

"No matter how old you are, looking after your body and overall health is always a smart choice, and extras cover gives people the perfect reason to make the time," says Julie.

"I think some people forget they have extras cover or worry about being out of pocket. HCF’s More for You 100% back programs^ remove the cost consideration for that initial visit to the physio or for a dental check with our No-Gap provider network."

Checking in with the right professionals can not only safeguard your health but also your wallet. Considering the potential benefits of proactive health planning, it might be worth putting use of your extras cover at the top of your to do list in 2024.

Looking after your health is easier with 100% back^ on popular extras. You can get 100% back on 1 or 2 dental check-ups a year, prescription glasses from a selected range, and a first visit to a physio, chiro or osteo with over 16,000 extras providers in our No-Gap network.

Learn more

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Tips to talk about anxiety

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How to get more from extras

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Important Information

* 89.2% compared to 85.6% across the industry. Calculated based on the average of the past 10 years, sourced from APRA Statistics: Private Health Insurance Operations Reports 2014-23.

^ 100% back from providers in our No-Gap network is available on selected covers. Waiting periods and annual limits apply. Providers are subject to change. We recommend that you confirm the provider prior to booking your appointment. See

+ HCF Year in Review FY 2022–23.

# You should make your own enquiries to determine whether this service is suitable for you. If you decide to use this service, it'll be on the basis that HCF won't be responsible, and you won't hold HCF responsible, for any liability that may arise from that use.

** 1 HealthyMinds Check-in available per member per calendar year. Service is available free to all members with hospital cover. Excludes extras only cover, Ambulance Only, Accident Only Basic and Overseas Visitors Health Cover.

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