Media Release

Sick of waiting: 1 in 5 uninsured patients fork out for private health care

  • New research shows one in five Australians (19%) have paid for a visit to a private hospital rather than be seen at a public hospital
  • Australians waited a total of 149,000 years for elective surgeries in 2017
  • urges Australians to check their policy before booking in for elective surgery

13 March, 2018, Sydney, Australia – Patients without private health insurance have chosen to pay massive private hospital fees rather than wait it out in the public system, according to, the site that compares virtually everything.

New research from shows almost one in five Australians (19%) have paid for a visit to a private hospital rather than be seen at a public hospital. Nearly half of these had self-funded surgery in a private hospital.

Meanwhile, the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) data shows waiting times for elective surgery had increased to 38 days nationally in 2016-17.’s analysis of the AIHW data reveals that this equates to 149,000 years waiting in total in 2017.

Bessie Hassan, Insurance Expert at, says the analysis suggests waiting times are more than likely the cause for some people opting to use the private health system even though they aren’t covered.

“In some cases, patients wish to be seen more urgently than what is offered in the public system and are prepared to pay to jump the queue,” she says.

According to the analysis, New South Wales saw the longest wait times for elective surgery with patients in the state waiting 54 days on average for their elective surgery, equating to almost 67,000 wasted years in wait times.

For example, when it comes to cataract extractions, the most common elective surgery, patients are waiting an average of 216 days for the procedure in New South Wales, compared to patients in Victoria who wait only 57 days on average.

On the other hand, the Northern Territory saw the shortest waiting period for elective surgeries at 28 days on average.

State by state elective surgery wait times:

State2016 median waiting days2017 median waiting daysTotal years worth of waiting in 2017
NSW555466,886 years
VIC303024,685 years
QLD293226,038 years
WA303411,934 years
SA403910,770 years
TAS72454,656 years
ACTN/A462,926 years
NT29281,303 years
Australia3738149,198 years

“Other reasons for using the private health care system beyond lack of availability in the public system are more choice in terms of clinicians and hospital locations, wanting a private room and more consistent service,” says Ms Hassan.

“However, uninsured patients should be aware that they are up for the entire cost of any appointment or procedure in the private system, which could blow out pretty quickly,” she says.

“Some Australians may be taking the gamble that a one-off visit to a private hospital is cheaper than years of paying private health insurance premiums. This is a risky game to play and unlikely to pay off,” says Ms Hassan.

“It’s true that private health cover does give you more options, and any insurance should be seen as an investment,” she says.

She urges uninsured patients to consider private health insurance before using the private health system.


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