National report presents information on private health insurance use in public and private hospitals

UNDER EMBARGO—until 1.00am Wednesday 6 December 2017

A report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) presents new information about the use of private health insurance to fund patients’ admissions to public and private hospitals.

The report, Private health insurance patients in Australian hospitals, 2006–07 to 2015–16: Australian hospital statistics shows that private health insurance is funding (either entirely or in part) a growing proportion of hospital admissions in both public and private hospitals—increasing by 5.6% on average each year since 2006–07.

For public hospitals, private health insurance-funded hospitalisations increased from 8.2% of hospitalisations in 2006–07 to 13.9% in 2015–16—an increase of 9.6% on average each year.

For private hospitals, private health insurance-funded hospitalisations increased from 80% of hospitalisations in 2006–07 to 83% in 2015–16—an increase of 4.9% on average each year.

‘In 2006–07 about 1 in 7 private health insurance-funded hospitalisations occurred in public hospitals, increasing to about 1 in 5 in 2015–16,’ said AIHW spokesperson Jenny Hargreaves.

Private health insurance-funded hospitalisations in public hospitals were more likely to be for patients aged 75 and older, and patients aged 19 and under (30% and 12%, respectively), compared with 21% and 5% respectively in private hospitals.

When looking at the types of admissions and services provided, medical care was the most common type of service provided for private health insurance-funded admissions in public hospitals , and surgical care was the most common in private hospitals.

The report showed that the vast majority (95%) of elective surgery admissions that were funded by private health insurance occurred in private hospitals, with the remaining 5% taking place in public hospitals.

The report provides information on the waiting times for public hospital admissions for elective surgery for specific surgical procedures and particular population groups.

The median waiting time is the number of days within which half of the patients were admitted for their surgery.

The report showed that private health insurance-funded patients generally experienced shorter median waiting times for elective surgery—20 days compared with 42 days for public patients and 18 days for other patients.

‘When looking at knee replacement surgery, the median waiting time for private health insurance-funded patients was 76 days, compared with 203 days for public patients’, Ms Hargreaves said.

‘Private health insurance-funded patients were more likely to be categorised as needing this surgery relatively urgently, with 43% requiring knee replacement surgery within 90 days. This compared with 25% of public patients’.

This special focus report provides additional detail to supplement information published annually by the AIHW on Australia’s hospitals.

Further information: Cherie McLean, AIHW, Tel. 02 6244 1012, mob. 0409 226 057