The Role of Private Hospitals in Australia’s Universal Health Care System

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The Role of Private Hospitals in Australia’s Universal Health Care System
  • In Canada, since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increasing reliance on private clinics contracted to deliver publicly funded surgeries – despite the controversy these arrangements produce.
  • Australia’s health-care system outranks Canada on a range of performance indicators while characterized by a deep integration between its private and public sectors.
  • In 2021/22 in Australia, 41% of all recorded care episodes occurred in private hospitals. Of the total number of episodes of elective care, 58.6% occurred in private hospitals. For elective admissions involving surgery, 70.3% occurred in private hospitals.
  • Private hospitals are also involved in the delivery of fully publicly funded care, via contracted care or through the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). In 2020/21, fully publicly funded episodes of care made up 6.4% of all care in private hospitals and 2.6% of recorded care, whereas 73.5% of care paid for by the DVA occurred within private hospitals.
  • Because privately financed and delivered care is publicly subsidized, the extent of the public-private partnership in Australian health care can also be viewed through the lens of private hospital expenditures. In 2019/20, 32.8% of private hospital expenditures came from government sources.
  • Australia’s health-care system demonstrates that the goals of universal coverage can be successfully balanced with a pragmatic approach that involves the private sector as a partner in the delivery of care.

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