Health insurance doesn’t guarantee choice: survey

Peter Terlato 12 October 2016

hospital patient bad sad annoyed

Members feel they're not receiving the treatment they deserve.

Australians with private health insurance are overwhelmingly unimpressed with the level of service and care when treated at public hospitals, with some complaining they've felt pressured to bill their health funds, often when they're most vulnerable.

A survey of 35,000 members, conducted by not-for-profit insurer HCF and carried out over the past three years, exposes the dissatisfaction and frustrations private health customers experience at public hospitals, including interactions with clinical staff.

A substantial proportion (60%) of HCF members who were treated in a public hospital claimed they did not receive their choice of doctor, while just one fifth (20%) of respondents said they received a private room, despite being admitted as a private patient.

HCF chief benefits officer Cindy Shay told The Australian
that members expected a "private" experience if they used their health insurance in the public system.

"Public hospitals have become much more sophisticated and much more persistent about trying to convince a member that they should use their private health insurance. We hear that from members who periodically complain," she said.

Looking at the survey more broadly, while private hospitals were more likely to be recommended by patients, receiving a 9/10 rating, public hospitals received an average recommendation score of 8.3/10, up 0.5 points from 7.8/10 in 2013.

Medical staff at both public and private hospitals rated well, however, a small number (10%) of patients claim they didn't have medication side-effects explained to them and shockingly one-fifth (20%) of respondents didn't always know what their medication was for.

Most patients (90%) received post-discharge assistance with their medical team, however, a significant proportion (19%) didn't receive any additional health information in writing.

A recent study found more than three-quarters of Australians agree "private health insurers put profits before patients", with similar numbers open to reducing or cancelling policies due to a lack of value.

If you're thinking of taking out private health insurance or switching providers, it's beneficial to understand what different health funds actually cover.

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Picture: Shutterstock

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