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Hospitals & Clinics Public and private treatment

healthcare_lgMost Australian towns have a hospital or clinic, signposted by a sign of a white H on a blue background.

Australia’s public hospitals are funded jointly by the federal government and state and territory governments and administered by state and territory health departments. There’s also an increasing number of private hospital operators in Australia (such as Australian Hospital Care), and some public hospitals are operated by private companies under a contract.

Public Treatment

Medicare pays for the full cost of accommodation and medical treatment performed by hospital-appointed doctors for Medicare patients in public hospitals. Hospital bills for treatment under Medicare are always paid directly by Medicare. However, patients have no choice of doctors or hospital, nor of when they’re admitted for treatment or surgery.

Medicare patients also receive free X-rays and pathology tests in public hospitals and free out-patient services in some hospitals. Patients are usually accommodated in general wards or twin rooms. If you want a TV or a telephone, you must pay extra. When you visit a public hospital, you should take your Medicare card with you (if applicable). The staff may ask whether you wish to be treated under Medicare or as a private patient.

In recent years, there has been a funding crisis in public hospitals in many states, some of which have chronic shortages of basic medical supplies, including bandages, bed linen, drugs, sterile dressings, swabs, and syringes. Some public hospitals also have a lack of diagnostic equipment, e.g. for brain scans. In some over-worked public hospitals, patients are left lying for hours in emergency departments and in corridors waiting for a bed in a ward. Some public hospitals also suffer from a shortage of doctors and nurses and are forced to recruit casual staff from locum and nursing agencies. Fortunately, there’s usually no shortage of life-saving equipment or medicines.

Private Treatment

Even private patients are subsidised by Medicare. If you’re a private patient in a public or private hospital, Medicare pays 75 percent of the schedule fee for medical services and the remaining 25 percent is paid by your private health insurance if you have one. When you leave the hospital, you’re generally asked to pay the difference (if any) between your health insurer’s refund and the hospital fees, which you must then reclaim from your insurer.

If you don’t have private health insurance, you’re asked to pay the estimated costs at the time of admission. The average charge for a private bed is around $250 per day in a public hospital and over $600 per day in a private hospital, where prices have increased greatly in recent years. Patients in private hospitals are usually given a one or two bills for the total cost of treatment, although some hospitals still prefer to charge separately for different treatments and care.

Private patients are usually provided with single rooms equipped with all the comforts of home, including en-suite bathroom, radio, room service, telephone, and TV. If you’re a private patient, you can choose the hospital and your attending doctor and surgeon, although if you want your own doctor to treat you in a public hospital there’s a daily ‘accommodation’ charge.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in Australia.

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Baek Ah Yeon

I trust Allianz Care since it is one of the largest insurance companies in Australia, with the medical centres where I only have to pay for what is left from insurance support. (no need to claim later). Besides, those centres are located at the centre of the city, close to schools. Very convenient, right? Credits to Allianz Care for providing reliable medical centres for health check and treatments.

Baek Ah Yeon | University of Queensland

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Ariella Pei | University of Canberra

Chatchawat Paton

I realised how important insurance was when I started living in Australia. There I switched to using Allianz Care instead of the previous service. Allianz Care is extraordinarily good in its consulting service and customer care. I’ve learned a lot about Australian health care, also I was consulted with mental issues and how to live a healthy lifestyle. I am very happy now.

Chatchawat Paton | Torrent University

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Thanks to Allianz Care, every time I claimed my medical receipts it processed much more quickly and easily than I expected. I was initially a bit concerned since Allianz Care is more expensive than other insurance companies, but now I can ensure that it is totally worth the money.

Xiaoyu Cheng | Monash University

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