Constructing health consumers: Private health insurance discourses in Australia and the United Kingdom

Kirsten Harley, Karen Willis, John Gabe, Stephanie Short, Fran Collyer, Kristin Natalier, Michael Calnan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    35 Citations (Scopus)


    Significant transformations of the health care services sector over the past three decades have seen an increasing reliance on the private provision of health care services mediated through private health insurance. In countries such as Australia and the UK, private health insurance is promoted as providing a greater choice for individuals and easing the burden on the public system. While these claims, the policy contexts and the decision-making processes of individual consumers have attracted some sociological attention, little has been said about the role of private insurers. In this article we present a comparative analysis of the websites of private health insurers in Australia and the UK. Our analysis highlights adoption by private health insurers of neoliberal discourses of choice and individual responsibility, partnership and healthy lifestyles. In these respects, similarities between the discourses over-ride national differences which might otherwise be expected given their contrasting health care traditions and contexts.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)306-320
    Number of pages15
    JournalHealth Sociology Review
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


    • Choice
    • Discourse analysis
    • Lifestyle
    • Partnership
    • Private health insurance
    • Sociology


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