Private health insurance isn't for everyone. It's a question of weighing risks in the future against costs in the present.
Canberra economist Ian McAuley is blunt: "If you're over 85, a smoker, overweight, in the habit of frequent and random sexual encounters without protection, and inclined to hang-gliding or mountaineering, then you might want to consider private health insurance."
Mr McAuley, a Fellow at the Centre for Policy Development, says that the Australian public health system is so good that in emergencies endangered patients gets priority. When hearts fail or tumours grow, it is as good a service as it gets.
But insurance may benefit healthy people who may become vulnerable. There are two types of policy on offer: to cover for hospital treatment and to cover for "ancillary" items like dental treatment or ambulance cover.
Mr McAuley said that this ancillary treatment insurance was often capped (apart from for ambulance care) so insurance companies wouldn't pay the full amount. Read the small print is the advice.
There is evidence that many people don't actually know what they are insured for.
Three health economists (Sophie Lewis of the UNSW, Professor Karen Wills of La Trobe Unviersity and Marika Franklin of the Australian Catholic University) concluded: "Our research indicates that some people don't know the type of policy they have, and what it covers. They may be paying too much or are not covered for procedures that they do need."
One person they interviewed said, "I paid around almost $5000 for the surgeon and surgeon's assistant and [am] only going to get the Medicare cover for that. Then also an anaesthetist - my private health insurance won't cover that either."
The tax system tilts people towards going private. People who don't take out private insurance before they're 31 pay more later.
And there is a "Medicare Levy Surcharge" in addition to the usual income tax on those earning more than $90,000 a year (or $180,000 for the whole family). If you're in this situation Mr McAuley recommends that you think hard about getting the cheapest medical insurance (so exempting you from the levy.
Where private health insurance seems much more attractive is for people reaching 60 and where problems are starting to appear on the horizon.
You can't just sign up for health insurance when things go wrong - no insurance company would allow it and the system would be unworkable if they did. But if you feel your knees or hips starting to creak, insurance for a joint replacement in a couple of year's time might be worth thinking about.
And if you want to choose the time of your treatment or the doctor you want, then insurance offers a short cut. Women may want to give birth with a familiar doctor, for example. But if you have the money, you can pay for this without the insurance.
But private health insurance isn't just about what's right for the individual. It might also be about what's right for all Australians, for us collectively, as a society.
According to Brenda Gannon, professor of health economics at the University of Queensland, as more people don't opt for private insurance, the burden on the public purse rises to maintain the existing standard. Either more taxes or a worse service would be the choice.
"Nothing is for free."