Healthcare: Public vs Private

The differences between public and private health in Australia

You often hear Australia described as “the lucky country” for many reasons. Setting aside our wonderful weather, natural wonders and friendly people, you would have to agree that the health care we receive in Australia is some of the best in the world. It is definitely another reason why we are lucky, especially when you hear about the cost of health care in countries overseas.

In Australia, we sometimes take for granted how simple and inexpensive it is for us to receive medical attention. In many cases, it does not matter if you have a mild cold or a life-threatening illness, you can access medical support and treatment that often does not leave your bank balance wiped out.

The reason that we Australians have this is all because of Medicare, which has been around for almost 30 years. People under 30 would never remember life without it when they have been sick. Because of Medicare, our visits to Doctors, Specialists, Dentists and other health professionals are sometimes free or really well subsidized. Medicare allows us to have free treatment and free accommodation in a public hospital. Medicare also covers some health care services if we are travelling or living overseas in certain countries. Lots of GP’s in medical centers can bulk bill Medicare to lower what we pay as patients.

So, if Medicare covers all this for us, then why pay money for private health insurance? That’s because Medicare does not cover everything that you will probably need, no matter how old you are or how healthy you are.

One of the best reasons to organize private health insurance is if you do go to hospital, because there are some pretty important differences between the choices that public and private patients have in our hospitals. Firstly, if you go to hospital as a public (Medicare) patient, you won’t be able to choose your own Doctor. Many people who need medical treatment have had certain Doctors recommended to them, but you cannot choose to be a patient of that doctor unless you are privately insured. Secondly, depending on why you need to go to hospital, you may not have a choice as to when you go. Many people in Australia without private health insurance have to wait a long time before they can go to hospital and have their treatment. Your medical problem may not be life threatening, but it may be causing a fair amount of pain, stress or time off work. These are not fun to have to put up with and they can really affect your wellbeing.

With private health insurance, you also have the choice of going to a private or public hospital. If you decide to go to a public hospital (because it’s bigger and has more services), you can still choose your own doctor and when you want to go.

Outside of hospital, Medicare does not cover everything. This is another reason why having private health insurance is a good idea. Did you know that most dental examinations and treatments are not covered by Medicare? With the right private health insurance though, dental work can be covered for you. On top of this, most physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, eye therapy, chiropractic services, podiatry, psychology services, glasses and contact lenses, hearing aids and home nursing are not covered by Medicare either. People need these services everyday, and it’s very likely you will too at some point. Imagine avoiding physio or getting glasses if you needed them? Your health and wellbeing are worth investing in, don’t you think? With the right level of private health insurance, you can be covered for these services and more, including some Complementary and Alternative medical therapies to help prevent you getting sick down the track.