Overlapping health system just helps to ‘jump queue’
April 21, 2014
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By INGA TING
Sam Taylor’s children were just 6 and 14 when she was asked to make a choice no woman ever wants to make.
Diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in May last year, Taylor tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation that greatly increases the lifetime risk of developing cancer.
Doctors said she had two options: wait up to three years in the public system for the double mastectomy that might save her life or spend thousands of dollars going through private insurance.
￼No time to lose: Sam Taylor (pictured with her daughter Jade) decided to go through private insurance for after being told she could wait up to three years to have a double mastectomy in the public system. Photo: Ben Rushton
After going through six months of chemotherapy and with a husband and two young children to consider, it was “a no-brainer”, Taylor says.
"You’re told it could be back within five [years]; I don’t have three years to wait." The 41-year-old had a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction in February.
The procedure, free under Medicare, cost nearly $15,000.
Private insurance covered less than $3600 but there was no wait, Taylor says.
"We’re selling our house at the end of the year because the bills are just piling up … I’m really lucky my husband has a great job and we had extra equity in the house," Taylor said.
"If Scott and I had this diagnosis 20 years ago I would have been on the waiting list. I would have had no option."
It’s an option many more Australians may wish they had. Hospital waiting times are growing longer because Australia’s “two-tier” health system is pushing resources from the public to the private system, experts say.
Hospital waiting times are growing longer because Australia’s “two-tier” health system is pushing resources from the public to the private system, experts say.
Nearly 90 per cent of private health insurance coverage here duplicates public services, meaning private patients get the same treatment but faster access, an international analysis has shown.
Health economists say waiting times for people without private insurance will worsen if nothing is done to address the large overlap between the public and private systems, and suggest the private system should instead be harnessed to help those most in need of care.
Private insurance, public resources
Duplication was intended to cut queues in the public health sector by creating a parallel system for wealthier Australians with private health cover. But instead it has led to doctors abandoning the public system for the better-resourced private market, and given private patients priority access to public facilities.”