Rachelle was 36 years old and the mother of two small children when she was given unimaginable news.
“I was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer right from the beginning,” she said.
“The whole diagnosis came as a shock … and my husband and I were thinking about having a third child.
“But then, of course, everything changed.”
The cancer had spread to Rachelle’s bones, and more recently to her brain.
Despite the immense grey cloud that still hangs over Rachelle and her family, she says there is one silver lining – the private health cover she first took out as a younger woman.
“I feel I have more control in a situation where I often feel out of control.”
Rachelle, now 40, began treatment in the public system but soon opted into a private stream when she began to feel she was falling between the cracks of an overstretched resource.
“I felt let down for a number of reasons. I was not followed up with the right communications. Not having appointments booked in when they should have been urgently booked in.
“We have an amazing health system in this country, but emotionally, I needed more personalised support.”
Rachelle says her non-profit health fund, Navy Health, part of Members Health Fund Alliance, gives her the freedom to choose her health specialists, as well as an ability to co-ordinate the many and various appointments she must attend while also juggling school drop-offs and pickups for her six-year-old and eight-year-old kids.
“There’s so much going on, but I just feel so grateful … Because this treatment is ongoing for me, they try to do everything on the same day. So, I have my chemo, I see my oncologist, I have my scans booked on the same day.
“It’s just a feeling of confidence that things are happening, and that I have options.”
Split-second decisions with life-changing consequences
Lisa, 40, from Victoria is another proponent of non-profit health funds, describing her decision to swap from a for-profit fund into Teachers Health, part of the Members Health Fund Alliance group as “the smartest thing I ever did”.
As a younger woman, Lisa experienced a sliding doors moment that caused a ripple effect through her life.
“I was running to get out of the house, and I thought I would jump down a small flight of stairs. I slipped on my heels and came crashing down, and landed on my coccyx.”
That one split-second decision landed Lisa in hospital with a fractured coccyx.
Months of treatment followed, but the impact on Lisa’s life didn’t stop there.
“That injury prevented me from going to work, which meant I couldn’t keep up with my monthly payments of my private health insurance.
“There was no hardship program, and even though I had been with that [for-profit] fund for years, I got nothing.”
The financial repercussions were so significant, Lisa opted out of private health insurance entirely.
It wasn’t until a colleague mentioned to her that, as a teacher, she was eligible for the non-profit industry fund Teachers Health that she reconsidered.
She says the change has been dramatic.
Not only do Members Health funds return more benefits back to members, Lisa said she was also amazed by the cheaper premiums.
“When I looked into it, I realised the cost of what I had been paying before and what I could be paying was miles apart,” she said.
“I feel like people don’t know these non-profit funds are out there, and that they’re so much better.”
To learn more about Members Health Fund Alliance and the funds that put people before profits, go to membershealth.com.au.