What is the difference between public and private hospitals and how much does treatment cost?

  • 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.
  • Private Treatment:
    • Even private patients are subsidised by Medicare. If you’re a private patient in a public or private hospital, Medicare pays 75 per cent of the schedule fee for medical services and the remaining 25 percent is paid by your private health insurer, if you have one. When you leave 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.
    • 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.

How much will it cost me?

  • If you wish to be treated as a Medicare patient, you must check whether a doctor charges the schedule fee for consultations and bulk bills Medicare or whether he charges more (which may be $40 or more) and requires you to pay.

How do I choose a doctor?

  • You can choose to visit any doctor, either as a Medicare patient (provided the doctor is registered with Medicare) or a private patient. Many doctors in the suburbs of major cities work at public clinics and medical centres, where a number of doctors have a group practice, at least one of whom is usually female (there’s a relatively large percentage of women doctors in Australia). Clinics and medical centres  usually have an in-house pharmacy, and medical tests, such as blood and urine analysis and X-rays, may also be conducted in-house.