Station: Triple J
Program: Hack
Date: 5/4/2018
Time: 5:39 PM
Compere: Tom Tilley
Interviewees: Karen Willis, Professor, Allied Health Research, La Trobe University, Melbourne Health [Excerpt]; Dr Rachel David, CEO, Private Healthcare Australia; Stephen Stockwell, Reporter


TOM TILLEY: It’s time for another Hack Investigates where we investigate the questions that you want answered. You heard a few of the questions there. Today the question we’re answering is: is it worth getting private health insurance or can you just rely on the public health system?

And this was definitely something I considered after my motocross crash. I didn’t have private health insurance and the public system would have been fine, it was good for all the acute care and the foot surgery but I had to go private for my knee. If I was going to stay in the public system I would have been waiting still, six months later for that surgery. So I forked out quite a bit of money to get that done privately and to get it done quickly. So in hindsight for me personally I would have been better off with private health cover as long as I paid for the right options along the way. But maybe you’re not stupid enough to jump on a motocross bike when you’re completely out of practice. Stephen Stockwell is here to answer the question: is private healthcare worth it for you?

Stocky, you broke your finger recently and you do have private health cover so has it been worth it?

STEPHEN STOCKWELL: Well so far not entirely sure. So I’ve been going pretty much to the GP so all that’s been bulk billed. Had some hand specialist visit that aren’t covered by private health insurance, I’ve had to fork out $90 each time I go and see them and they bend my finger around in a variety of fun and painful ways. If I do end up needing surgery though which is still on the table, we’re working that out at the moment I probably will go private health which will mean about $500 that I’ve got to pay as a gap and then the rest of it’s covered.
TOM TILLEY: Okay, so you still had to fork out extra money for the specialist even though you have private health insurance. So it does beg that question that everyone asks themselves, if private health cover really worth it?
STEPHEN STOCKWELL: That is the million dollar question and it kind of depends really who you are. It’s a question I actually put as well to Karen Willis this morning. She’s a professor at Allied Health at Latrobe Uni and Melbourne Health.

KAREN WILLIS: It’s not easy to answer. It depends a bit what you want and you can’t really compare the public to the private systems because they do different things.

[End of excerpt]
TOM TILLEY: Right, so no simple answer.
STEPHEN STOCKWELL: Unfortunately not.
TOM TILLEY: Okay, so what situations and what kinds of people is private health cover the right way to go?
STEPHEN STOCKWELL: So people like you and I probably, really, so people that play a lot of sport. We’ve got form with sporting injuries and that’s really where the private health industry pushes the need for cover for young people. If you hurt yourself skiing, or playing footy, all that kind of stuff. I didn’t need it when I did my shoulder playing footy a little while ago but I could use it if I need surgery on the broken finger that I’ve got at the moment or I could just wait a few months and go through the public system.

RACHEL DAVID: What you need to ask yourself is could you really afford that if you were stuck or there was no one else to help you out?

[End of excerpt]
STEPHEN STOCKWELL: So that’s Dr Rachel David, the CEO of Private Healthcare Australia with the hard sell on whether or not you could afford to be off work waiting for the public system waiting to come around. Their other push for young people is mental health service access which Rachel also brought up with I spoke to her this morning.

RACHEL DAVID: If a mental health condition is very, very bad and your life is at risk you will be treated in a public hospital but imagine if you had chronic depression or anxiety that was keeping you at home. These are things that can be really hard to access care in the public system to treat.

[End of excerpt]
STEPHEN STOCKWELL: Essentially, the long and short of it is private health can be handy if you play lots of sports and don’t want to have to wait for surgery through the public system or if you’ve got a chronic health condition.
TOM TILLEY: Okay and if you’re having a baby, is private health cover important?
STEPHEN STOCKWELL: I feel like I’m quite unlikely to have a baby, Tom, but I have seen Junior so I’m not going to rule it out. And keeping that in mind, I went around and had a chat with a few of the older women that I know, people who have had a couple of kids essentially. The ones who went through both actually they said they preferred the public system. They said it was fine so you know, probably not something you need to stress too much about.
TOM TILLEY: Okay and what about if you need extra things like glasses or dental treatment? Is it worth going private for that kind of cover?
STEPHEN STOCKWELL: This is where it gets really interesting and super, super, super individual. You unfortunately just need to do the maths to work out what you’ll be using and see if the money that you would be saving would cover those costs anyway if you don’t take out private health cover.
TOM TILLEY: Yeah, it’s never simple with private health cover it seems. We’re doing our best to wade through it right now. You’re listening to a Hack Investigates with Stephen Stockwell. Should you get private health cover is the question that we’re talking about today. Now Stocky, I know the Government want us to get private health cover because it means we put less stress on the public system and I guess they have ways of financially incentivising us to do that.
STEPHEN STOCKWELL: That’s exactly right. So we all pay the Medicare Levy which is 2 per cent out of our pay essentially.
TOM TILLEY: Whether you’ve got private health cover or not.
STEPHEN STOCKWELL: Regardless of that. There’s something extra on top though, the Medicare Levy Surcharge. So that’s probably not something that applies to a lot of young people. It only hits you when you earn over $90,000 a year and that’s sort of an extra percentage that you’ve got to start contributing to the Medicare Levy if you don’t have private health. And to encourage you to get private health as well, the Government offers a rebate if you do take out private health. So they’ll start paying a part of your actual premium to try and incentivise you into that space.
TOM TILLEY: And I guess the bottom line is given that we have a good healthcare system, if something goes really wrong really quickly, like you’re in an acute situation, the care’s pretty good.
STEPHEN STOCKWELL: Yeah so you shouldn’t stress too much if you don’t have private health that you’re not going to get the cover you need. Karen Willis from Latrobe Uni says our public health system is there to look after you.

RACHEL DAVID: I don’t think people should be fearful that they’re not going to get treated if something happens to them and they need medical treatment. We have a fantastic public health system.

[End of excerpt]
TOM TILLEY: That was Stephen Stockwell investigating the question: is private healthcare worth it? And to summarise, the older you get the more the balance does swing in favour of private healthcare and if you play sport or need access to regular mental healthcare, it can be worthwhile. But it’s very different for every individual and our public healthcare system is very good compared to other countries so if you want more information about your particular situation go to for more information.
* * END * *


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