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Impact of Private Health Insurance on the Choice of Public versus Private Hospital Services


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  • Srivastava, P
  • Zhao, X


The Australian health system is characterised by a mix of public and private service and private health insurance is used in addition to a compulsory universal public insurance to finance health services. A series of reforms have been implemented over the years in order to expand the private sector with the objective to relieve the overburdened public health care system. While private coverage has expanded, a large proportion of the privately insured still opt for public treatment in hospitals. The objective of this paper is to investigate the determinants of individuals’ choice between public and private hospital services, in particular, the impact of private health insurance status. It estimates a recursive trivariate probit system model with partial observability that allows for endogeneity of private insurance participation and potential selection bias as we only observe individuals’ public/private choices for those who have visited a hospital in the past 12 months. Relative to the prevailing two-step estimation for sample selection or endogenous treatment, our full information maximum likelihood (FIML) approach is both consistent and efficient. The study identifies private health insurance status and income as important determinants of private hospital care utilisation. An individual with a private hospital cover has nearly 70 per cent higher chance to opt for private treatment in a hospital and a person within the tenth income decile group has 46 per cent higher probability to seek private hospital care than someone who falls in the third or lower income decile groups. To some extent other factors such as perceived quality of care in the public sector and cost of access are also found to have some impact on the use of private hospital care.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York in its series Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers with number 08/17.

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Date of creation: Jul 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:yor:hectdg:08/17

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Postal: HEDG/HERC, Department of Economics and Related Studies, University of York, York, YO10 5DD, United Kingdom
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Fax: (0)1904 323759
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Keywords: Hospital utilisation; Public/Private health care; Private health insurance; FIML;

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Cited by:
  1. Fabbri, Daniele & Monfardini, Chiara, 2011. "Opt Out or Top Up? Voluntary Healthcare Insurance and the Public vs. Private Substitution," IZA Discussion Papers 5952, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Terence Chai Cheng & Farshid Vahid, 2011. "Demand for Hospital Care and Private Health Insurance in a Mixed Public–Private System: Empirical Evidence Using a Simultaneous Equation Modeling Approach," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2011n22, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
  3. Denise Doiron & Denzil G Fiebig & Agne Suziedelyte, 2013. "Hips and hearts: the variation in incentive effects of insurance across hospital procedures," Discussion Papers 2013-14, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.
  4. Sergi Jimenez & Natalia Jorgensen & José María Labeaga, 2008. "Immigration and the Demand for Health in Spain," Working Papers 2008-38, FEDEA.


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