Private and Public Health Care
What's the difference?
When you become sick in Australia, there are two health care
systems you can rely on for treatment: public health care
(Medicare) and private health
The Medicare public health system
The public health system in Australia offers access to basic
- free treatment as a public patient in a public hospital
- free or subsidised treatment by some practitioners (including
some specific services by participating optometrists and
- free eye tests by optometrists
- tests and examinations including X-rays and pathology
Whilst Medicare offers a good service to patients, in the
public health system, you may be subject to waiting for an
available bed, waiting for elective surgery, and treatment by
whichever doctor is available at the time of your admittance.
The Medicare system is under increasing strain with more
patients being admitted to hospital and increasing the waiting
times for elective surgery. In 2010-11, 50% of patients
waited up to 36 days for public elective surgery, increasing from
32 days in 2006-07 and 35 days in 2009-10. The median waiting time
ranged from 29 days in Queensland and Western Australia to 76 days
in the Australian Capital Territory. Between 2006-07 and 2010-11,
the proportion of patients who waited more than a year to be
admitted for their surgery decreased from 3.1% to 2.9%.
Ref: AIHW 2011. Australian hospital statistics 2010-2011:
emergency department care and elective surgery waiting times.
Health services series no. 41. Cat. no. HSE 115. Canberra:
The private health system
health system is crucial in delivering health services in
Australia, providing a third of all hospital beds and over half of
all surgical episodes requiring the use of an operating room.
The private health system offers treatment as a private patient
in both private as well as public hospitals, meaning you can choose
your doctor and have greater flexibility in scheduling any elective
surgery that you may want.
The private health system also goes a step further than Medicare
by offering additional services that
Medicare doesn't include, like physio, chiropractic, remedial
massage and more.
Why take out private health insurance?
Quite simply, having private health insurance makes using the
private health system more affordable. By paying a premium
to your health fund, you can access private health care if and when
something does go wrong.
With private health insurance, you're buying peace of mind,
knowing that you and your family are covered for a wide range of
medical issues. It's made even more affordable by the Australian
Government's health insurance rebate, which covers 30% of your
premium for both hospital and extras
Note: the Government plans to implement a means test on
this rebate. If this is implemented it could affect eligibility for
the 30% rebate.
These articles are provided as reference material to allow more informed decision making, but are not intended as being a complete source of information on any topic. All readers should make their own independent analysis on the topic to make sure they have considered the aspects that are important to them.
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