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When private health insurance is worth the cost

Millions of Aussies are suffering as a result of not having private health insurance.

A composite image if Australian money and the exterior of private health insurer Bupa.
Aussies without private health insurance are suffering long wait times. (Source: Getty)

Millions of Aussies are suffering on long waitlists for elective surgery because they don’t have private health insurance.

A Finder survey of 1,059 respondents revealed one in five Aussies – equivalent to more than 4 million people – had to wait for an operation because they didn’t have private health insurance.

Of those who weren’t able to have their surgery straight away, 81 per cent – equivalent to more than 3 million people – waited longer than three months, while 65 per cent waited more than six months for their surgery.

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Elective surgery is considered medically necessary, and may be required urgently, but is not conducted as a result of an emergency presentation.

Finder health insurance expert Tim Bennett said long waits for surgery could add a lot of additional stress for patients.

“Many are left waiting longer than expected for treatment and some then face the additional burden of prolonged reliance on medication to cope with the delay,” Bennett said.

“The consequences of being uninsured need to be weighed up as the stakes are high.”

Is the cost of private health insurance worth it?

The cost of private health insurance varies but Finder analysis found a bronze hospital-only policy would cost $100 a month, on average, for a 30-year-old Sydneysider earning less than $90,000 a year.

“Private cover also allows you to pick your hospital or doctor and can help you save on tax if you make more than $90,000,” Bennett said.

Bennett urged those waiting for surgery to monitor their condition regularly with their general practitioner.

“For certain ailments – serving the waiting period of private health cover is quicker than staying in the public queue.

“The added expense of a monthly premium is worth it for some, especially if it means halting further damage to the body for things like knee and hip replacements.

In 2021–22, 623,000 patients were admitted for surgery from public hospital elective surgery waiting lists – a 17 per cent decrease compared with 2020–21, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Wellness (AIHW).

General surgery was the most common surgical speciality (21 per cent), followed by urological surgery (16 per cent).

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