What’s So Good About Being a Private Patient?

Tomato sauce or BBQ? Tea or coffee? Public or Private Health Insurance? These are the dilemmas of our time. While we’d never presume to answer these questions on your behalf, we can tell you some of the good things about Private Health Insurance.
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Updated 20/11/2023
What changed?
Expanded list of perks, checked sources and references to make sure content is up to date
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Our aim is to help you make better informed decisions. That’s why iSelect’s content is produced in accordance with our fact-checking and editorial guidelines.

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Written by

Liv Steigrad

Updated 20/11/2023

What changed?

Expanded list of perks, checked sources and references to make sure content is up to date
Our aim is to help you make better informed decisions. That’s why iSelect’s content is produced in accordance with our fact-checking and editorial guidelines.

Edited by

Laura Crowden

Find out more about how we make money.

View our Privacy Policy.

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I need cover for…

We’re fortunate to have a good public health system in Australia, and the private system is designed to supplement it. Let’s look at the top seven reasons why people might choose private over public.

But remember, to make the most of the benefits of Private Health Insurance and minimise your out-of-pocket expenses, you should consider a Health Insurance Policy that’s suited to your specific circumstances.

1. You’ll get your choice of doctor or specialist

As a private patient, you can choose which doctor or specialist you want to see.1

Choosing your doctor can be reassuring if continuity of care is important to you. For example, if you have an ongoing condition and are admitted to hospital for it, that same specialist can continue to treat you throughout.

Or if you’re planning on having a baby, you might want to consider whether you want to choose your own obstetrician to look after you throughout your pregnancy and delivery. You can do this with Private Health Insurance, but not in the public system.2

2. You get to choose your own hospital

As a private patient, you can choose which hospital you’re treated in – you can even choose to be a private patient in a public hospital.3

Why does it matter? Well, you might prefer to be treated in a hospital that’s closer to home or one that has an excellent reputation in a particular field.

You might also find private hospitals could be a more pleasant environment to recover in, with a greater chance of having a private room, fancier facilities, and better food.4

3. Waiting times for elective surgeries might be shorter

In the public system, the wait times for non-urgent elective surgeries can commonly drag out as long as a year.5 Non-urgent surgeries refer to anything that isn’t considered an emergency.6 This include things like cataract surgery, joint replacements, gallbladder removal and surgery for endometriosis.7 And while the system might consider these surgeries non-urgent, waiting a long time for these types surgery can be challenging, frustrating, or even painful.

Through the private system, your specialist is likely able to treat you more quickly in a private hospital,8 which means you can get on with your recovery (and your life) more quickly.

4. It might save you some extra tax costs

Depending on how much you earn, taking out Private Hospital Cover could save you money on your taxes!

If you don’t have Hospital Cover and you’re a single person earning more than $93,000 or a family or couple earning more than $186,000 combined, you’ll have to pay the Medicare Levy Surcharge. This starts at 1.0% and goes up incrementally depending on how much you earn.9

Holding a Private Health Insurance policy also means you’ll likely be eligible for a Private Health Insurance Rebate. The actual amount you get is calculated based on your age and income.10 You can either claim the rebate as a premium reduction from your insurance provider, or as a tax offset when you lodge your tax return.11

5. You’re more likely to get a single room

Nobody loves the idea of sharing a room with a stranger, but when you’re unwell, that prospect can be even less appealing than usual. If you have Private Hospital Cover, you’ll likely have more choice about whether you get a private room in hospital.12

6. You might get cover for your ambulance costs

If the unexpected happens and you need an ambulance, it’s reassuring to know that you’re covered. Depending on which state you live in, the public health system might not cover the costs of emergency transport (though you might be eligible for a discount if you hold a concession card).13

When it comes to Private Health Insurance, what’s included in Ambulance Cover can vary. For example, some might only cover you in the state or territory of your residence, while others might not cover ‘call out’ fees (when an ambulance comes and treats you but doesn’t end up taking you to a hospital).14

 As always, it’s worth reading your product brochure carefully so you know exactly what you’re covered for.

7. It’s good for the community

For all the individual benefits that come with having Private Hospital Cover, there’s a communal side to it, too. Not everyone has the financial means to access Private Health Care. But for those who can afford it, choosing to go private takes some of the pressure off the public system, easing the workload of public healthcare workers and freeing up their capacity to provide better care to those who need it.

What does the public health system do better?

In an emergency, the public system is a good bet. Public hospitals are often better equipped to address complex cases, and provide most of Australia’s emergency and outpatient services.

The public hospital system also tends to be more widely accessible, and can sometimes offer more services or have more equipment – particularly in rural areas.15

And of course, it’s free.

Where can I find and compare Health Insurance policies?

Right here! At iSelect, we’ve done the legwork to help you compare a range of Private Hospital Insurance policies and providers. You can compare policies online* or call 1800 784 772 and speak to one of our friendly team members.

1 Department of Health and Aged Care – About private health insurance
2 Better Health Channel – Paying for pregnancy, birth and newborn baby care
3 Better Health Channel  Choosing hospitals and specialist doctors
4 Healthdirect – The public and private hospital systems
5 Better Health Channel – Planned surgery (elective surgery)
6 AIHW – Elective surgery
7 Victoria Department of Health – National Elective Surgery Urgency Categorisation Guideline - April 2015
8 Healthdirect  The public and private hospital systems
9 – Medicare Levy Surcharge
10 – Australian Government Private Health Insurance Rebate
11 As above
12 Better Health Channel  Hospital costs and payments
13  Ambulance
14 As above
15 Healthdirect  The public and private hospital systems


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