Do private patients have shorter waiting times for elective surgery? Evidence from New South Wales public hospitals

Economic Society of Australia and New Zealand
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Economic Papers, 2010, 29 (2), pp. 128 - 142
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
The Productivity Commission (2008) identified waiting times for elective surgery as a measure of governments success in providing accessible health care. At the 2007 COAG meeting, the Prime Minister identified reduction of elective surgery waiting times in public hospitals as a major policy priority. To date, the analysis of waiting time data has been limited to summary statistics by medical procedure, doctor specialty and state. In this paper, we look behind the summary statistics and analyse the extent to which private patients are prioritised over comparable public patients in public hospitals. Our empirical evidence is based on waiting list and admission data from public hospitals in NSW for 20042005. We find that private patients have substantially shorter waiting times, and tend to be admitted ahead of their listing rank, especially for procedures that have low urgency levels. We also explore the benefits and costs of this preferential treatment on waiting times.
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