Electing to be a private patient in a public hospital

You shouldn’t feel forced to elect to be a private patient when in a public hospital. As an Australian citizen you’re entitled to free public hospital treatment and shouldn’t have to use your private health insurance to pay for a public hospital treatment.

If a patient in a public hospital elects to be a private patient, this means that instead of the cost of the treatment being covered by the public hospital the cost will be passed to the patient’s health fund and also Medicare. This matter has been very topical in the media recently due to the ongoing focus on health insurance affordability, and the recognition that public hospitals are actively encouraging patients to elect to be private patients.

This decision to be treated as a private patient in a public hospital is contributing to the ongoing increases in health insurance premiums. Over the last three years, the cost of public hospital claims for Queensland Country has been increasing by twenty percent per annum, which impacts greatly on our premium increases we have to make each year.

Is it worth being a private patient in a public hospital?

There are some circumstances where it makes sense to elect to be a private patient, as this decision at times can provide a tangible benefit. For example, it may allow access to hospital treatment in a public hospital sooner than if you were a public patient. Other than that, we see no other tangible benefits for our Members, particularly when they’re being coerced into signing as a private patient with incentives such as access to a free TV or free parking.

We recommend our Members to be aware of this issue, so that you can make a confident choice in what can be a confusing and disingenuous experience. We’ve had Members who’ve been made to feel guilty if they don’t sign the Patient Election Form to be admitted as a private patient.

Another important point to consider in this situation is whether or not you have to pay an excess in a public hospital as a private patient. Remember, as a public patient you’re entitled to free public hospital treatment and wouldn’t need to pay this as a public patient.

Overall, whether you’re treated as a public or private patient in a public hospital, it needs to be a conscious decision made by you only and/or other Members under your policy. Being treated as a private patient in a public hospital is a cost that we all bear when the treatment could be free if treated as a public patient. It’s a decision that should give you the best benefit and one that you should never feel forced to make if you don’t want to.

If you have any concerns or would like to share your experience as a private patient in a public hosital, we’d like to hear from you. Please call your friendly team on 1800 813 415.