The cost of staying in hospital in Australia

Chris Stanley

Chris Stanley

Updated 08/02/2023

How much will you pay for a hospital stay in Australia? Find out more about the costs of private and public hospital care.

The cost of staying in hospital in Australia

What is hospital cover and is it worth getting?

Hospital Stay Costs Across Australia Compared

Whether you’re staying in hospital overnight or for the day, there are different costs involved for a private or a public hospital, your type of treatment, and your level of health cover. 

So how much can you expect to pay for a hospital stay? We look at the typical expenses of private and public hospital care, and how you could reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

Key Points

  • The cost of staying in hospital depends on your treatment, your level of health cover and whether you go public or private.

  • Medicare covers treatment when you are admitted as a public (Medicare) patient in public hospitals.

  • Medicare covers 75% of the Medicare Benefit Schedule fee for treatment in a private hospital, while appropriate cover with a private health fund covers some or all of the balance.

  • Private health cover can reduce your out-of-pocket costs, whether you’re treated as a private patient in a public or a private hospital.


How much does a public hospital stay cost per night?

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the average cost of a hospital stay in a major public hospital is $4,680.

Generally speaking though, public hospital treatment is free for Australian and New Zealand citizens, as well as most permanent residents, where they elect to be treated as a public (Medicare) patient.

This means, in most cases, Medicare foots the bill if you stay in a public hospital as a public patient.

It’s worth noting if you stay as a public patient in a public hospital, you’ll typically be in a shared room unless a private room is needed and available. You might also have to wait longer for treatment than you would in a private hospital. More information on hospital waiting time can be found here.

Increased privacy and shorter waiting times for treatment are some of the reasons many of us choose to hold private health cover.

If you’re in Australia on a visa, you can compare Overseas Visitor Health Cover (OVHC) here.

Private hospital costs:

Hospitals do have set fees, as do doctors who consult for them. As a private patient, Medicare generally covers 75% of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) fee for your treatment/surgery.

Your private health insurance can cover some or all of the balance, as well as:

  • Operating theatre fees.

  • Accommodation fees and meals.

  • X-rays, pathology and radiology tests.

  • Dressings.

  • Allied health services, including physiotherapy, rehabilitation and occupational therapy.

Even if you have private health cover, you might have to pay gap fees or other medical costs not covered by your health fund. You can avoid or minimise hefty out-of-pocket costs by finding a private health insurer that fits your specific health needs.

How much does day surgery cost?

Like overnight hospital stays, the cost of day surgery varies depending on your procedure, and whether you’re being treated as a public or private patient.

Day surgery in a public hospital is covered by Medicare as long as you’re admitted as a public patient and the surgery is included in the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).

For day surgery in a private hospital, Medicare covers 75% of the MBS fee for the surgery, while your private health insurance typically covers some or all of the balance.

Does Medicare cover emergency room visits in Australia?

Yes. Medicare covers the cost of emergency care at public hospitals. If you’re admitted to stay as an inpatient, costs vary depending on the factors outlined above.

Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of being taken to hospital in an ambulance. Ambulance services are free to residents in Queensland and Tasmania (though not if they need this service in another state!) but the cost in other states and territories varies.

Ambulance cover can help pay for this cost if you need to travel in an ambulance. Find out more about this here.

What is hospital cover and how does it work?

Hospital cover is a type of private health insurance that helps you with the cost of a hospital stay or treatment. Basic services include:

  • Hospital accommodation fees.

  • Meals.

  • Operating theatre fees.

  • Medications.

  • Doctors and specialist fees, blood tests, x-rays, etc. (some or all of the balance after Medicare pays 75% of the MBS fee).

Higher tiers of hospital cover may cover services such as:

  • Chemotherapy

  • Radiotherapy

  • Immunotherapy

  • Pregnancy

  • Birth and assisted-reproductive services

  • Joint reconstructions and replacements

  • Insulin pumps

  • Dialysis for chronic renal failure

Is hospital cover worth it?

This comes down to your specific needs and situation. Depending on your policy, hospital cover can help reduce your out-of-pocket costs whether you’re treated as a private patient in a public or private hospital.

It can also help you skip long public hospital waiting queues and give you more choice over who’s treating you.

And if you earn over $93,000 a year ($186,000 per couple/family**), you can avoid paying the Medicare Levy Surcharge (MLS) each year by buying hospital cover*.

Whether you’re considering private health insurance for the first time or switching funds, it’s important to get a policy that suits your needs. Compare Club saved Australians an average of $300.43 when they compared and chose health cover with us*.

This article is opinion only and should not be taken as medical or financial advice. Check with a financial professional before making any decisions. #Compare Club compares selected products from a panel of trusted insurers. We do not compare all products in the market. *$300.43 average savings based on 136,746 customers between 1 Jan 2018 - 23 December 2022. ## MLS can be avoided for the period appropriate private cover is held. ** The family threshold increases by $1500 for each child after the first.

Chris Stanley is the sales & operations manager of health insurance at Compare Club. With extensive experience and expertise, Chris is a trusted leader known for his deep understanding of health insurance markets, policies, and coverage options. As the sales & operations manager of health insurance, Chris leads a team of dedicated professionals committed to helping individuals and families make informed decisions about their health insurance needs.

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Chris Stanley

Sales & Operations Manager for Health Insurance