Private patients in a public hospital – do you know your rights?


Being informed about your rights as a privately insured patient can ease the stress of a hospital stay.

If the unexpected happens and you find yourself in a public hospital, especially if you’ve been rushed there in an emergency, it can be a traumatic time for you and your family without the added stress of the unknowns that come with a hospital stay.

Recently, Health Partners has experienced an increasing number of enquiries from members regarding their rights when they are admitted for treatment at a public hospital.

To help make this time easier, here are a few things that you can be sure of:

1. As a privately insured patient with hospital cover, you have a choice.

You can choose to be treated as either a public or a private patient and you have the right to make that choice without coercion or pressure from hospital staff. When you are admitted to a public hospital, you will be asked if you wish to be treated as a public or private patient and required to complete a Patient Election Form. This form records your choice and should provide a clear and unambiguous explanation of the consequences of both private and public patient election. After signing this form, your status can only be changed in the event of unforeseen circumstances such as complications requiring additional procedures or an extension of your length of stay. The Patient Election form should explain that:

• As a public patient, you will not be charged for hospital accommodation, doctor, medical and diagnostic services, prostheses and most other relevant services. These services are covered by Medicare for Australian residents.­­­­

• As a private patient, you will be charged at the prevailing rate for hospital accommodation, doctor, medical and diagnostic services, prostheses and any other relevant services. You may not be fully covered by your private health insurance for the fees charged for your treatment and you should seek advice from your doctor, the hospital and your health fund (Health Partners) regarding medical, accommodation and other costs. Finally, as a private patient, you will be able to choose your doctor, providing the doctor has private practice rights with the hospital.

2. Your choice is protected.

The arrangements governing private patients in public hospitals are set out in the National Health Reform Agreement and are further expanded on in the Private Patients’ Hospital Charter. To make things easier for you, we’ve provided a summary of each:

• The Private Patients’ Hospital Charter states that a person with private health insurance can choose to be treated as a public patient in a public hospital, at no charge, by a doctor appointed by the hospital.

• The National Health Reform Agreement requires that public hospital employees don’t direct patients towards a particular choice.*

3. Health Partners is here to support you.

With Health Partners hospital cover, you don’t have to rely solely on the already burdened public hospital system. You have the peace of mind knowing that you can be treated by your choice of doctor at your choice of hospital without the added stress of public waiting lists.

If you’re planning a hospital admission, we recommend contacting Health Partners to confirm your level of cover. Likewise, if you are admitted to a public hospital and feel uncertain about any aspect of your admission or choice, speak with us. We’re here to ensure you receive the best possible treatment and make a speedy and successful recovery.

If you have any further questions regarding your rights as a privately insured person in a public hospital or your hospital cover, please speak with our Member Services team on 1300 113 113. We’re here from 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 9am-1pm Saturdays to take your calls.



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Like to know more?

Call Health Partners on 1300 113 113
or 1800 182 322 if you are outside the Adelaide metropolitan area or interstate.