2013-08-16 09:15:45

Australia's healthcare system is called Medicare and funded by taxpayers. Expats may be eligible, depending on residency status.

Medicare is Australia’s nationalised healthcare system, which is funded by taxpayers and covers the majority of healthcare costs and expenses.

For more information on visa types and Medicare, please consult the Department of Immigration. If you are eligible, you must register with the Department of Human Services for Medicare in order to enroll.

Eligibility for Medicare

If you live in Australia, you may be eligible for Medicare if you are:

  • A permanent visa holder
  • Permanent visa applicants that are awaiting a decision on their visa and have working rights within Australia. Or, a parent, child or spouse of someone who is a citizen, permanent resident, or a New Zealand citizen with Australian residency.
  • A holder of some temporary visas
  • Temporary visa holders, who reside in a country that recognises a reciprocal health agreement with Australia

If you have a working holiday visa, or if you hold a temporary visa in Australia, you’re not eligible for the Medicare system. You will need to arrange private health insurance, otherwise, you will need to pay out of pocket each time you visit a doctor or specialist. However, everyone who is employed in Australia pays a tax towards Medicare, called the Medicare Levy Surcharge. If you are not eligible for Medicare, you can claim back this tax when you file your taxes.

A limited access to the public health system is nonetheless granted to foreign natives coming from countries that have signed agreements with Australia. For more information, please consult Medicare for more information on whether this applies to your situation.

Medicare coverage

Medicare funds (or reimburses) expenses related to services provided by medical practitioners. Some doctors will bulk bill, which means no out of pocket fee is paid by the patient, but doctors who do not bulk bill will charge a consultation fee -- a percentage of this fee is reimbursable through Medicare. Some patients chose to purchase additional private health insurance to supplement their Medicare benefits.

Under Medicare, most medical services are covered, including eye examinations from optometrists. Generally, dental services are not included, except for certain medical procedures.

For in-hospital treatment, i.e. medical treatment provided to an admitted patient of a hospital (which usually excludes treatment provided in an outpatient or accident/emergency department of a hospital), Medicare pays 75% of the fee.

For out-of-hospital treatment, i.e. treatment provided to a person who is not an admitted patient of a hospital, Medicare pays 100% of the fee for general practitioner consultations and 85% of the fee for specialist consultations.

Medicare fully subsidises treatment in a public hospital as a public patient. Regardless of means, every Australian is entitled to attend a public hospital and receive medical treatment free of charge. However, there may be a considerable waiting list for elective surgery. Treatment and hospital accommodation is free for the patient. This is funded through the Commonwealth-State Health Care Agreement.

A Medicare card will be delivered with your own personal Medicare number. The card is necessary to get medical treatment or to pick up pharmacy prescriptions.

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