Public vs private

When it comes to health care, we only want the best available. But what’s best for you?

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked if private is better than public when it comes to health care, I’d be a very wealthy woman.

Truth is, the answer isn’t as clear cut as many would like, highlighted by the almost-even split between the number of Australians covered for hospital treatment (45.6%) or general treatment (54.6%) and those who are not.* I’ve had private health insurance my entire life. My parents were advocates of it and insisted I maintain my insurance after I left home. To be honest, I’d never really thought about it until I married and started a family of my own.

Pregnant with our first child, health insurance afforded me the obstetrician of my choice and a private room in the hospital of my choice. Many of my friends opted for the public system and, although discharged from hospital much earlier, were provided daily home visits from a midwife in the days following birth.

I’m happy to say all our babies were delivered safe and healthy. And while I have no regrets about “going private”, it wasn’t cheap despite my health insurance. My friends, on the other hand, paid nothing.

It wasn’t until my children entered the toddler stage that I began to question whether health insurance was worth the monthly expense.

On the few occasions the kids needed emergency care, we were referred to a new public hospital nearby and received first-class treatment. At that point we began to wonder if the money we were spending on private health cover could be better used elsewhere. Before I cancelled our coverage, though, I was diagnosed with cancer – and that changed everything.

Thanks to my health insurance, the time between diagnosis and my first surgery was less than a week. I could recover in my own hospital room and know the ‘team’ of specialists who were caring for me would be the same throughout my journey. Ten years later, they still are.

Other cancer survivors I’ve befriended along the way went public with their treatment and have no regrets either. Which leads me to this conclusion – there’s no right and wrong when it comes to health insurance. I’ve kept it all these years because I like having peace-of-mind that my family will receive the treatment they need, when they need it. There are pros and cons for both, and only you can decide what best suits your situation.

* Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) Private Health Insurance Quarterly Statistics December 2017 (13 February, 2018).

  • 11.3 million Australians are covered for hospital treatment.
  • 57.2% of Queenslanders do not have insurance for hospital treatment.
  • 51.1% of Queenslanders do not have general treatment insurance.