Some hold the view that private health cover is only for the wealthy, with this myth one of several that have been exposed by Private Healthcare Australia (PHA).
Private Healthcare Australia Limited – previously known as the Australian Health Insurance Association – represents 21 health funds around the country, covering over 95 per cent of the private health insurance industry.
Around 12 million Australians have PHA member funds with the chief executive officer Dr Michael Armitage, releasing a presentation which addresses the myths surrounding private health insurance.
Myth 1: Private health insurance only for the wealthy
The first myth dispelled by Dr Armitage is that private health insurance is only for the rich. About 3.4 million people with private health insurance were stated to live in households that bring in less than $35,000 annually.
Another 5.6 million people covered by private health insurance lived in households with gross annual incomes under $50,000.
The presentation also noted the contribution of the private health sector in treatment and care. According to 2011 hospital statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), 81 per cent of sameday mental health treatments were performed in private hospitals, along with 78 per cent of 'other' knee procedures and 72 per cent of complex middle ear infections among a number of other medical treatments.
Myth 2: I'm too young for private health cover, I don't need it
A view held by some young Australians is that private health insurance isn't relevant to them, but this isn't necessarily true – health insurance can benefit you at any age.
Dr Armitage noted the highest payments made on behalf of members aged under 30 (calendar year 2011) in his presentation, revealing that the top payment made was $165,364 for a 28-year-old who spent 55 bed days in a private hospital for lung inflammation.
The second highest payment was $154,401 for a baby who spend 151 bed days in hospital for a congenital defect of the oesophagus, with the third highest payment $153,813 for a 17-year-old who had a disorder of the heart valve(s).
Myth 3: Private health insurers don't support the public health system
According to the 2010 Productivity Commission Report, the private sector delivers "shorter waiting times, shorter lengths of stay and higher productivity".
An AIHW report released in April found that hospital admissions were on the rise in Australia, with the report stating that about two-thirds of elective admissions involving surgery were in private hospitals.