Many Australians wonder what will happen if they don’t have private health insurance. According to figures published by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) in March 2023, a record 14.42 million Australians (just over 55% of the population) now have private health cover, with its popularity increasing by 2% in 2022 with an additional 305,687 people taking out private hospital cover.
But what happens if you don't have private health insurance in Australia? Find out what the implications are and if you’ll have to pay extra tax if you don’t have private health cover here with Savvy.
What happens if I don't have private health insurance in Australia?
If you choose not to have private health insurance in Australia, there are several implications:
- you may have to pay 100% of the cost of ancillary health services such as dental, optical, physio and chiro treatments, as well as the full cost of hearing aids and other healthcare services that aren’t covered by Medicare
- you’ll have no choice about where you receive your health treatment or which doctor treats you
- you’ll have to receive all hospital treatment as a public patient, which may involve sharing a room or being treated in a public ward
- you'll have to join public health waiting lists to see specialists and to get non-urgent surgery, and these waiting lists can be lengthy
- you may have to pay more tax such as the Medicare Levy Surcharge depending on your income bracket
- if you decide to get private health insurance later in life, it may end up costing you more
Because Australia has a universal health care system, the publicly-funded Medicare, you can still receive basic hospital treatment if you suffer an illness, accident or injury without private health insurance. An ambulance can take you to the nearest public hospital which can treat your medical condition, and treatment through an accident and emergency department will be free of charge.
However, if you don’t have ambulance cover as part of private health insurance, that ride could end up costing you thousands of dollars depending on which state you live in.
Are there tax penalties if I don’t have private health insurance?
The Australian Government has a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to private health insurance. The incentive (or ‘carrot') to hold private health insurance is assistance with the cost of your premiums provided by the government. The private health insurance rebate offers a rebate on the cost of premiums which you can claim either through your health fund or annually on your tax return. It ranges from around 8% up to more than 38% for older Australians on a low income (as of April 2023).
Medicare Levy Surcharge
The ‘stick’ part of the equation is the Medicare Levy Surcharge. All eligible Australians pay the Medicare Levy, which is taken out of the pay packet by employers and paid straight to the government. This is partially how Medicare is funded.
However, those who don’t have private health insurance have to pay an additional tax called the Medicare Levy Surcharge. This is a penalty imposed by the Australian Government on those who don’t have private hospital cover and earn above $90,000 p.a.
The surcharge of between 1% and 1.5% is calculated based on your income and is payable by high income-earners in addition to the standard Medicare Levy. The purpose of the Medicare Levy Surcharge is to encourage higher-income earners to take out private health insurance and reduce the strain on the public health system.
How can I avoid paying the Medicare Levy Surcharge?
You can avoid paying the Medicare Levy Surcharge by having an appropriate level of hospital cover. This is defined by the government as hospital cover with an excess of $750 or less for singles or $1,500 or less for families.
Basic hospital cover for a single person can start from as little as $20 per week, which can provide you with very basic hospital cover to avoid paying the Medicare Levy Surcharge.
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