According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy
(ASCIA), food allergies occur in as many as one in 20 Australian children and are on the rise. While many children grow out of their allergies as they get older, caring for a child with a life threatening food allergy can be a daunting experience, not to mention an expensive one.
The cost of diagnosis, consultations and ongoing medication for serious allergies can make a big dent in the family budget. Fortunately, the right health insurance cover can help you get affordable access to inpatient diagnostic services as well as ongoing dietary support.
How Are Food Allergies Diagnosed?
Food allergies are usually diagnosed when children are young (under 5 years of age), although they can develop later in life. If you suspect your child might have a food allergy, your GP will refer you to an allergy specialist so your child can be tested.
Initial testing usually involves skin prick allergy tests or blood tests. Your child may also be put on an elimination diet where potential triggers are removed from their diet for a set period of time and then reintroduced one by one. This is usually done as an inpatient day procedure under close medical supervision.
While there are some Medicare rebates available for skin prick testing under certain circumstances, without private health insurance your options for inpatient diagnostics and dietary support will be more limited, unless you are prepared to pay for those charges yourself.
What Treatment Is Available For Food Allergies?
Luckily even life threatening food allergies can be managed, although your child will probably need to have ongoing consultations with an allergy specialist throughout their life. You may also need to consult with a dietician on a regular basis, so you can be sure your child is getting all the nutrition they need if their diet is restricted.
While there are a limited number of allergy services covered by Medicare, if you want to be able to choose your own specialists for your child’s inpatient diagnostic tests and dietary support you will almost certainly need to pay for private treatment.
To make sure you are covered against the cost of treatment, and to give you affordable access to dietician services, you will need to have extras cover on your health insurance policy. Extras cover varies between providers so it’s always worth comparing a few different policies to find out which one offers the best rate and cover for your family.
Are Food Allergies Considered A Pre-Existing Condition?
A pre-existing condition is defined by health insurers as any illness, ailment or condition that your child had signs or symptoms of in the six months prior to taking out a health insurance policy or upgrading your cover.
Health funds are legally allowed to impose a 12-month waiting period on hospital treatment benefits for pre-existing conditions, and many also apply the same rules for extras cover. This means that, depending on your policy, you may have to wait up to a year before you can claim for food allergy related hospital or extras treatment costs if the allergy was diagnosed before you joined the fund, or if your child showed symptoms of an allergy in the previous six months. That said, waiting periods are recognized if you are currently insured and decide to switch funds on an equivalent cover.
If your child has recently been diagnosed, or if you suspect they may have a food allergy, it’s well worth reviewing your health insurance to make sure you have the right cover to get the quality of care your child deserves, without overstretching the family budget.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
'Jayn O'Driscoll is Marketing Manager at Choosewell
, an Australian Health Insurance Comparison Service that is committed to helping people find the right health insurance products at the best price. Jayn has been in the Financial Services Industry for 15 Years. '