06 May 2014

Public healthcare vs private health insurance

In Australia, the health system comprises of two sectors: Medicare (public health) and private healthcare. Medicare is a nationwide healthcare initiative that offers free or subsidised medical treatment, while private healthcare offers access to a wider range of medical services and some advantages (like jumping the queue for elective surgery) at a cost.

The public health system

The Australian public health system operates under the name of Medicare, and it's a universal healthcare scheme that ensures we all get access to basic care including:

  1. free treatment as a public patient in public hospitals
  2. free or subsidised treatment by some doctors (eg. General Practitioners)
  3. subsidies on some treatments by participating specialists, optometrists and dentists (eg. free eye checks)
  4. free tests and examinations including x-rays and pathology tests

Medicare does not provide cover for out-of-hospital treatments like physio, chiro, most dental treatment, optical appliances, podiatry, psychology etc.

Private health insurance

With private health insurance, you can be treated as a private patient in a public or private hospital. The benefits of this can be significant, including:

  1. your choice of hospital and doctor within the hospital
  2. shorter wait times for surgery and greater flexibility in scheduling procedures
  3. cover for your doctors' fees and hospital costs including accommodation and theatre
  4. increased likelihood of having your own room to recuperate

Private health insurance can also provide cover for ancillary (out-of-hospital) services that Medicare doesn't cover, like:

  1. physiotherapy and chiropractic
  2. glasses, bifocals and contact lenses
  3. dental treatment
  4. psychology
  5. hearing aids and other medical appliances
  6. acupuncture, remedial massage and other alternative therapies

What are the main differences?

Some of the main differences between public and private healthcare are:

  1. Public healthcare is free and accessible to all while private healthcare is only accessible for those who are willing to pay.
  2. As a public patient, you can only go to a public hospital and you can't choose which doctor will treat you or when you'll be seen. As a private patient you can choose to go to a private hospital and you can even choose your doctor within the hospital.
  3. If your case is life-threatening, your procedures will generally take place immediately regardless of whether you're a public or private patient. However, if the procedure is not life-threatening, it will be considered elective and as a public patient you may need to wait months, if not years, before surgery. As a private patient, you can jump the queue and be scheduled much faster, often even having the flexibility to choose a time that suits you.
  4. Public healthcare does not include any ancillary treatments, but depending on the policy that you hold private healthcare provides cover for some, if not all, of these costs.

Should I take out private health cover?

Taking out private health insurance is a personal choice, but it's one that's encouraged by the Australian Government, which provides incentives including:

  1. a rebate on the cost of your premium (the % of rebate is based on your age and taxable income)
  2. guaranteed lowest premium if you take out cover early in life (Lifetime Health Cover)
  3. avoidance of extra tax in the form of the Medicare Levy Surcharge if you take out private hospital cover (applicable income thresholds change every year)

In Australia there are many health funds you can choose from, each offering a range of policies. It's not too hard to find one that meets your health needs and suits your budget. If you decide that health insurance is for you, apply online or contact us today on 13 55 55 and let's talk about how we can help you.


This is general information only and does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider the relevant PDS available on this website prior to purchasing any product. Choosi offers insurance products from a range of brands but does not compare all products available in the market.

Search blog


Signup to our newsletter


Receive articles, news & tips as soon as they are published. We'll send occasional updates on the latest product offers, competitions and more!
By subscribing you consent to us contacting you and agree to our Privacy Policy

Related articles

19 Statistics you should know about health insurance
22 Sep 2016

19 Statistics you should know about health insurance

Learn about 19 interesting statistics about health insurance in Australia here.

Read More
Stay healthy with these easy changes to your everyday life
14 Nov 2013

Stay healthy with these easy changes to your everyday life

Want to be healthy and live a long fulfilling life? There are easy changes you can make to your everyday life to keep your body and mind in top condition.

Read More
Get your moustache on for Movember
19 Sep 2013

Get your moustache on for Movember

Movember - an effort to raise awareness about men's health. Find out more about Movember and how you can get involved.

Read More

Ready to compare?