Letter to the Editor - April 16: Do we need private cover?

SOME 500,000 Australians who have had private health cover for years opted out of it last financial year. Why?

Did they think they didn't need private cover for the range of health problems they might suffer?

I made a list of health problems a retired couple might have and asked, for each one, whether private health cover was necessary.

The list included hospital stays for pneumonia and the like, treatment for cancer, a hip replacement, heart surgery, visits to emergency departments, and visits to GPs and specialists.

Conclusion? As long as one stays in public hospitals for treatment or surgery, private health cover isn't needed. Medicare paid for everything.

But is the care as good as in a private hospital? Those who have stayed in public and private hospitals say they are both very good.

And can you get your doctor of choice in the public system? Our retired couple could, whether they wanted to see their GP, a specialist or a surgeon.

And how long will our retired couple have to wait for elective surgery if they don't have private cover? Longer than if they had it. But the "wait time" is acceptable, an average of 16 days for heart surgery, going up to 90 days for knee and hip replacements.

Finally, does private cover pay? A study by economist, Ian McAulay, compared two men, one who paid for private health cover from age 25 to 80, the other who invested what he might have paid in premiums. They had the same health issues. The second was $80,000 better off than the first at age 80.

Dr Michael Blockey,
Scotts Head

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