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Should you use private health insurance in a public hospital - what are your thoughts/experiences?

What does private health insurance for public hospital cover? Is it better than the Basic cover if I want to avoid paying the Medicare Levy?

Private health cover for all procedures in public hospitals used to be a type of policy that you could buy, before the new tiered system of health cover arrived in April this year. Now, these policies are called Basic Plus, as are policies that cover some things in public hospital and others in a private hospital.

Accident only policies are Basic policies. If you use your private health insurance in a public hospital, the only advantage you might have over public patients with no health cover is that you can choose your own doctor. You might not even be covered for a private room.

And there’s actually a disadvantage to being a private patient in a public hospital: you could be charged out-of-pocket fees for the same treatment that you’d receive free of charge if you went in as a public patient. We don’t recommend Basic or Basic Plus health insurance unless you only
want it to avoid the Medicare Levy.

In this case, we suggest you just look for the cheapest policy (in Queensland, NSW and the ACT, the cheapest policies also have public hospital cover). Also look at Bronze health insurance. Often, for a few dollars more a month, Bronze health insurance covers things such as broken bones, treatment of flu or stroke, and some cancer surgery. Bronze also covers a private room if you have to go to hospital.

See more health insurance advice.


Should you use private health insurance in a public hospital - what are your thoughts/experiences?

Here’s some detailed advice:


In 2007 I had a life threatening admission to the Austin (Heidelberg Vic). When I was well enough for discussion they asked if I had private health, and if I was willing to be a private patient they would cover any and every out of pocket that might arise. My thought process at that moment was to agree since I thought any funding sent their way was a good thing to do. In retrospect I might have thought more deeply but considered it then, and would likely consider it now, as a supplement to my Medicare taxes going straight to the hospitals involved, no pollies or government dilution in its way.

My treatment was exemplary but I doubt it was any different from the public patients around me excepting for the ‘private patient’ sign above my bed whereby everything was put into a bill. Perhaps my private money created (funded) another test that was thus made possible for a public patient that otherwise would have been rationed by one fewer test?


That’s exactly how I felt when I booked a parent in a few years ago.

Are they trying to change the trend. Is this a common scenario - excess waived in some circumstances at Private Hospitals but not public? This is Westfund.

I had an emergency stay at Royal Perth a couple of years back, and they talked me into using my private health cover, which was with HBF at the time. I was also guaranteed no out-of-pockets by the hospital - including no payment of my policy excess - so I figured why not. I got given fancy toiletries (useful as I was ambulance-d from the airport and had literally nothing with me, my luggage continued on the journey…), I got free TV (didn’t use it because I had netflix on my phone), free phone calls (again, I had my phone so didn’t use it), some parking passes and some cafeteria vouchers (useful for my family who came to visit).
I was in isolation, so having a “private room” was guaranteed whether I used my insurance or not. I did have a suspicion at the time that they kept me a little bit longer than they strictly needed to because they were getting paid for having me.

My husband had a short overnight stay for emergency surgery at our local regional hospital and chose not to use the cover (I have no idea why). He said the only thing that he could see that the private patients on the open surgical ward got was a better breakfast… which still could be worth it at our local :joy:

The cost of private health insurance is getting too much. Surely they can give single pensioners a reduction in the monthly charge. I have had a back operation and the only hospital the doctor will operate in is a private hospital, so I feel need to be covered in case anything goes wrong with it. But it is now going to cost me approx $100 per month.

My understanding is surgical privileges in public hospitals are in return for working for the public system as well as one’s private practice.

Have you considered changing surgeons to one who is more caring about his patients than his accounts as s/he seems to be prioritising income, or having a go with the public system if the costs of private are too much?


I was told that if the doctor would operate in the Public Hospital as a Private Patient, and the Public Hospital covers all the accounts. I checked this with the Public Hospital and they said yes they would. I requested the doctor to do that, but he said that my operation was not big enough to warrant that. (knee - not a replacement). I then had to get a lift to drive to another town 40 klms further (add that to the 35 klms to the closet hospital) to a public hospital where he operates.