What is Private Healthcare?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Private healthcare has several definitions. It can refer to healthcare plans people purchase separately to help pay for healthcare costs. In this case, most people in the US who purchase health insurance have private healthcare. More often the term gets used to discuss the difference between public healthcare systems and private healthcare purchases, especially in countries where there is an extensive form of public health care available.

Some public health care programs, such as the one in Canada, do not cover prescription drugs.
Some public health care programs, such as the one in Canada, do not cover prescription drugs.

In Canada, all members of the public have rights to basic medical care. Yet these basics don’t comprise everything needed to remain healthy. One big difference is that prescriptions drugs aren’t covered. To help defer these costs, people often opt to purchase private healthcare or supplemental insurance. They may also purchase extra insurance to increase amenities when they go to a hospital. A person who wants a private room at a hospital in Canada will have to pay out of pocket to get it, or have additional insurance that will meet these costs.

Another distinction can be made between public and private healthcare. In the UK, people may wait a long time to see therapists for mental health issues. This has resulted in many choosing to pay privately to see a therapist. Choosing a private therapist means choosing one that doesn’t usually work for the state, and it can significantly reduce the amount of time a person must wait for mental health services.

Even in countries where medicine is largely socialized, there may exist a divide between public and private healthcare. People with more money or the ability to purchase private insurance often have access to better and faster services, and greater amenities. Some insurance companies even allow people to travel to other countries to receive surgeries when they would have to wait too long to receive them in their own countries.

It’s easy to see the way this divide operates in countries where there are some government health services. Those in the US on Medicaid can have significant problems getting the care they need. Unfortunately, government reimbursement has a reputation for being very slow. Also, reimbursement from Medicaid is much lower than that from many health insurance companies. Numerous providers may prefer not to treat Medicaid patients, though public run medical facilities don’t have this option.

In contrast, people with private healthcare insurance in the US may have greater options when it comes to finding doctors. This is by no means perfect and some plans have many limitations on the kinds of providers a person can see, especially health maintenance organization plans. Still, most people receiving Medicaid would far rather have private insurance if they could afford it.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


Have to disagree with you. The main trouble with medicaid comes from its difficulty in finding providers to take it. This remains a vital problem that needs remedy. Private health care tends to offer more choice in terms of providers. This is not to say that public health plans can't be great, and I am praying that we get a good one in the US. I've also been on medicaid though, and I had a really hard time finding anyone to treat me.


I disagree. I think people would rather have *free* healthcare insurance (Medicaid) and wait longer to be seen in the doctor's office than have to pay the high premiums for private insurance. *Free* prescriptions, *free* healthcare--the only reason people on Medicaid may want private insurance may be the stigma, but these days that is no longer the case when you find more and more families not having any insurance at all because of job loss. I have had both private and Medicaid and I can tell you there are less troubles working within Medicaid accepting doctors and getting in with private insurance accepting only doctors. No hassles, no deductibles, no payment, yet my children are very healthy. I think it's great.

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