I have private health insurance – and I hate it

I dislike paying for private health insurance (PHI). I feel like the government has screwed this up royally.

If you don’t have private health insurance and you’re not a low-income earner, you’ll pay a Medicare Levy Surcharge of up to 1.5% of your income.

If you do have private health insurance, you’ll get some of it rebated back from the government (generally they pay this directly to the insurer, so you pay less for your premiums). It used to be a flat rate of 30%, but now the amount depends on your income and age, ranging from around 8-33%.


And then there’s the Lifetime Health Cover (LHC): this is a “financial loading” (let’s just call a spade a spade – it’s a financial penalty) that is applied on top of your insurance premium, at a rate of 2% for every year you are aged over 30 and you don’t take up health insurance.

So, let’s say you are 35 years old and get PHI for the first time. You will pay 10% more for your premiums – 2% each year for 5 years – as a penalty for not taking out insurance sooner.

Are you still following? I understand if you’re not, because it’s confusing, convoluted and more than a little corrupt.

As Guardian reporter Crispin Hull points out, the government is squarely to blame for this situation, having “bribed people with the tax rebate for premiums, and blackmailed people earning more than $100,000 a year with a Medicare surcharge if they did not have private cover”.

Plus, PHI has done little to take the pressure off public hospitals – which was always touted as its primary goal.

So here we are, with a broken, expensive system, which is making me want to cancel my PHI policy and wing it with Medicare.

Until I caught up with a friend from Melbourne this week, who told me her 3-year-old daughter likely has coeliac disease. It means her body can’t tolerate gluten – and she’s incredibly sick as a result. Her weight has fallen from the 75th percentile to the 5th percentile in the last 12 months, and her GP has requested an urgent scope to check the internal damage.

But the response at her public hospital was… weak.

She’s been added to the waitlist, which is currently 5-months long, to see a gastro specialist at the Children’s Hospital, then she’ll be waiting another 6-12 months to have the scope.

That is almost 18 months of eating poison – because if she is coeliac, that is how her body treats gluten – and 18 months of stunted growth and pain before it’s even properly diagnosed.

“Thank God we have savings we can use to go private, but there’s no doubt other kids on that ‘urgent’ list who will continue suffering for months and months before anything is done to help them. It’s bloody awful!” my friend said.

It’s more than awful. It’s absolute bullshit. But it’s the cards we’ve been dealt – so I guess I’ll reluctantly keep paying my premiums. For now.