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Wait times for patients with private health insurance are half as long

25 May 2017 - 11:31am

Those with private health insurance are being bumped up elective surgery lists in public hospitals, ahead of publicly funded patients, a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows.

The report also details a number of trends that suggest having a private health insurance policy means better, quicker healthcare - even in public facilities. What does this mean for the average Australian? 


Private health insurance means shorter waiting times in hospitals. Private health insurance means shorter waiting times in hospitals.

Private health in public hospitals 

The most shocking revelation of the new AIHW report is that the average waiting time public patients can expect for elective surgery is 42 days. Patients funding part or all of their care with private health insurance can expect to wait less than half the time - 20 days on average. 

This is a worrying trend for the public system considering that patients billing their private health insurers for care in public facilities increased by around 10 per cent each year from 2011/12 through to 2014/15. 

Private Healthcare Australia President Rachel David opined that public hospitals are being incentivised by state governments to focus on chasing revenue from patients with private health insurance. She says patients being admitted to emergency departments have reported being pressured by public hospitals to declare themselves private patients.

What does this mean for the average Australian?

Patients funding part or all of their care with private health insurance can expect to wait less than half the time - 20 days on average.

For the average uninsured Australian, unfortunately this means longer waiting times at hospital. The roughly 5.2 million patients admitted through the public system in 2015/16 were essentially second priority to the 872,000 who used their private health insurance to cover treatment.

Dr Rachel David commented on the trend recently to the Australian Associated Press: 

"What this really reflects is that public hospitals are now competing actively with private hospitals for the private patient dollar. If that means sicker people without private health insurance miss out then that's a problem."

This worrying trend emphasises the importance of having comprehensive private health insurance. The fact is, there will be failings in the public health system and having private health insurance means that you'll always get the healthcare that you need without unnecessary delay.

Get in touch with an insurance advisor here at HICA to tailor cover to your needs and budget, and make sure that you always receive the best treatment available.