Your choice of doctor, your choice of public or private hospital

Friday, April 7, 2017

‘The right of privately-insured hospital patients to choose their own doctor, whether in a private or public hospital, is fundamental to our healthcare system’, Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, said today.

‘This fundamental right, outlined clearly in the Commonwealth Government’s Private Patients Hospital Charter and in the National Health Reform Agreement, seems to have been glossed over in recent negative statements about patients electing to use private health insurance in public hospitals.

‘The allegation that this is somehow driving annual increases in private health insurance premiums does not make sense when private health insurers generally pay more to private hospitals for an admitted patient than they pay to public hospitals.

‘It doesn’t make sense when the amount private insurers pay to public hospitals is just 7% of what they pay out in benefits overall.

‘It doesn’t make sense when profit-making private health insurers, regulated by the Australian Government, are already being subsidised to the tune of $6 billion a year by the Australian Government.’

‘It doesn’t make sense if you are in a rural area, and the public hospital is the only hospital around, and you would like your own doctor to be there.

‘It doesn’t make sense when your kids are seriously ill—there are very few private hospital options available to support very seriously ill children, and parents naturally want the security of having the doctor of their choice wherever their children are treated—which by necessity will almost always be in a public hospital.’

‘And finally it doesn’t make sense when several health insurers offer lower-cost policies that only allow treatment in a public hospital—a tacit admission that public hospitals are cheaper—yet they don’t want you to use the policy!’

‘Those criticising the use of private health insurance in public hospitals could also spare a thought for the doctors who work in both public and private sectors, as many do. Any move to limit this flexibility will have a serious impact on continuity of care for patients as well as workforce implications, especially in rural and regional areas.

‘Private insurers would be better off working with private hospitals to drive efficiencies in the private system—in other words the 93% they spend in areas other than public hospitals. The Senate’s current inquiry into prosthesis pricing, which is substantially higher in the private system than the public system, is a good place to start—and a place where the Commonwealth could act quickly to realise savings.

‘Any move to restrict people’s right to use their private health insurance benefits as they want to, in any hospital and with the doctor of their choice, without considering whole-of-system reform, would undermine rather than strengthen Australia’s health system.’


For more information on the AHHA, visit

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, community and primary healthcare services, and advocates for universal, high quality and affordable healthcare to benefit the whole community.

Media enquiries: Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive,  Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, 0403 282 501