Australia’s public health care system is consistently ranked among the best in the world. Since 1984, Australian citizens, permanent residents, and some temporary residents have had access to the government-sponsored Medicare program. The program’s goal is to give Australians access to free or low-cost medical treatment and hospital care. However, relying on Medicare can impact your choice of doctors and hospitals and increase the wait time for certain treatments.
Australia’s Medicare health plan is financed in part by the Medicare levy surcharge and covers most costs for GP visits, diagnostic tests, treatment at public hospitals, and most prescription drugs. As strong as the Medicare system is, however, the program is not without limits. Australians who rely only on Medicare don’t get a say on when or where they’re treated or about who performs procedures. There are usually longer wait times for treatment of nonemergency conditions. Additionally, public health coverage does not cover services like dental treatments, ambulance transportation, eyeglasses, or osteopathy.
As a result of some of the limitations of public health care, almost half of Australians invest in supplemental private health insurance. The Australian government extends a break on the Medicare levy surcharge and offers rebates in exchange for having a private plan. Additionally, citizens with a private health insurance plan can seek treatment in private facilities and access a wider range of treatments and procedures. Let’s take a look at why you might consider a private health insurance plan.
As discussed, around 45 percent of Australians have private insurance plans. Many citizens decide on private health care coverage for a variety of reasons. For some, it makes financial sense to pay monthly premiums for health insurance coverage to avoid the expenses of the Medicare levy surcharge. Many others select private policies to avoid wait times for elective treatments and surgery, choose their own specialist or hospital, or get the option of a private hospital room. Many Australians believe that private health insurance coverage will allow them access to better private health care system services.
Shorter Wait Times
Across the Medicare system, priority is given to the most critical patients first. Life-threatening conditions and critical illnesses are treated in the emergency room of public hospitals. For nonemergency or elective procedures, however, patients can experience significant wait times before receiving treatment. As an example, the average wait time for a total knee replacement is around 203 days, according to recent studies. By contrast, those with private insurance have to wait about 67 days for the same surgery. The majority of citizens are encouraged to use private health insurance coverage to avoid wait times and seek private care.
Choice and Options
Choice of provider is one of the biggest reasons that many citizens take out private health coverage. Many private health plans offer customers choices to select their own doctors, hospitals, and treatments. Private hospitals usually have shorter wait times for procedures, and private health care providers typically have more availability. Many customers select private insurance to have more control over the health care services and treatments they require.
In addition to more choices, private insurance also gives citizens access to a wider variety of care options. With extra coverage, people can access more dental and eyeglass services and receive better rates on other treatments not covered by the public plan. Additionally, many can gain access to covered ambulance transportation with private coverage. With private insurance, customers have more choices and options for their health care needs.
Australia’s public health care plan covers a wide range of medical care and offers citizens access to basic quality care. For many citizens, however, a private plan offers a choice of doctor and hospital and expanded care options. With some time and research, you can find the right private health coverage for your needs.