Electing to be a private patient in a public hospital

Over the past 12 months, total benefits paid by Queensland Country Health Fund have increased by 21%. One of the contributors to this is increases in the benefits we pay to public hospitals, as more of our Members elect to be treated as private patients in public hospitals.

The benefits we paid in the past 12 months to some public hospitals have increased by more than 40% and unfortunately this directly contributes to higher premiums for our Members. It’s difficult to see how this choice of being treated as a private patient delivers any better health outcomes compared with public patients in a public hospital.

Also of concern are the lengths some public hospitals will go to with encouraging our Members to be treated as private patients.

We had a Member speak with us recently to advise that her partner had suffered a serious injury that required surgery. Following a couple of days waiting for surgery, the Member was approached by hospital staff indicating that if he chose to claim on his private health insurance, they could operate on him immediately. He was told that if he didn’t sign a patient election form to be treated as a private patient, they couldn’t guarantee when he would make it onto the operating list. This is concerning behaviour and we have referred this incident to the Office of the Health Ombudsman.

We share this example to help Members understand the cost impacts on the private health insurance industry and how they can support a better outcome from an affordability perspective for all Members.

The Federal Government is planning to introduce some reforms that should assist with affordability and transparency and we look forward to how this can further improve the value proposition of health insurance for everyone.

Want to know more about what it means to be a private patient in a public hospital, and if it's worth electing to be one? Please call us on 1800 813 415 to chat to us about the advantages and disadvantages.