Do you live near a private hospital? Are medical specialists close enough for you to realistically see them if you needed to? Is it easy to get to allied health practitioners?
If you are amongst the 11.3% of the Australian population that live in an outer regional or remote area, you may find the value of private health insurance is significantly diminished. On the other hand, if you live in a major city or an inner regional area, it’s likely that you will be able to enjoy the full benefits of private health insurance. Note that this is a general rule – some Australians living in remote areas may have very good access to health services and options, and vice versa.
What happens if you live in a remote area
Some of key benefits of private health insurance cover include the ability to choose your own doctor when being treated in hospital, skip waiting lists, and being covered for medical services that happen outside of hospital, like physiotherapy appointments. But when you live in a remote area, you may find these theoretical benefits don’t have much real-world benefit.
Let’s say there’s only one surgeon in town that does knee reconstructions, and they work out of the public hospital. You may hold private health insurance which entitles you to choose your doctor, but if the closest alternatives work out of a private hospital 100s of kilometres away, are you really going to drive to that hospital for the procedure (and any appointments before and after)? If your loved ones come with you, where will they stay while you’re in hospital? If the nearest private hospital is inconveniently far away, will it really be worth it to skip the waiting periods at a much closer public hospital? And if you need a massage but there are no practitioners in town, how far would you realistically go to be seen?
Maybe when you think about these scenarios, private health insurance still stacks up – it will clearly depend on how far away your options are, and what type of protection you as an individual value. Nonetheless, these are some of the questions you should be asking to determine whether private health insurance is right for you.
There are other benefits…
Even if you live in a remote area and decide that private health insurance doesn’t make sense for the reasons discussed above, it may still make sense to purchase it for other reasons.
Depending on your income, private health insurance may save you money by paying less tax, it does allow you to be comfortable in hospital (even in a public hospital), and it may make sense to protect yourself against higher premiums in the future when you may be living in an area that allows you to more fully take advantage of the benefits of private health insurance.