The healthcare system in Australia

The healthcare system in Australia
Updated 2021-01-08 12:46

Australia's healthcare system is one of the best in the world, providing people with quality and safe care. The Australian state and territory governments share responsibility for running the health system, and Medicare is the universal health insurance scheme. It guarantees all Australians (and some overseas visitors) access to a wide range of hospital benefits for low or no cost.  

Eligibility for Medicare

You can get a Medicare card if you live in Australia or on Norfolk Island and are:

  • an Australian citizen
  • a New Zealand citizen
  • an Australian permanent resident
  • applying for permanent residency - conditions apply, or
  • covered by a Ministerial Order

To enrol for a Medicare card, for a permanent resident of Australia, you need to provide your passport, travel document or Immicard, and your visa from the Department of Home Affairs. For a permanent resident applicant, you need to provide your passport, travel document, or Immicard, a valid visa, and proof that you have submitted your residency application to the Home Affairs Department. If your visa doesn't let you work in Australia, you must prove a relationship with a parent, spouse, or child who is an Australian citizen, a permanent resident, or a New Zealand citizen who lives in Australia.


If you are visiting Australia, it depends on your county's reciprocal health care agreements regarding what care you are eligible for. The agreement points to what medical care you can get while visiting Australia and what documents you need to show. The agreements in place are with the below countries:

  • Belgium
  • Finland
  • Italy - you don't need to have been living in Italy, but you must be an Italian citizen and meet the other agreement conditions
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Ireland
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom

For these countries, Medicare covers illnesses and injury that can't wait till you get home, and care that Medicare covers (see below).

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, which can vary from AUD 60 to AUD 350. 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.

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

Medicare coverage

Medicare will help cover the costs for part or all of the following services:

  • seeing a GP or specialist
  • tests and scans, like x-rays
  • most surgery and procedures performed by doctors
  • eye tests by optometrists.

Medicare won't cover:

  • ambulance services
  • most dental services
  • glasses, contact lenses and hearing aids
  • cosmetic surgery.

If you choose to see a doctor who bulk-bills (you can find this out by calling the centre), Medicare will cover the entire cost. If not, Medicare will cover some of the costs. A Medicare card will be delivered with your personal Medicare number. The card is necessary to get medical treatment or to pick up pharmacy prescriptions.

Health insurance in Australia

Besides Medicare, it's a good idea to subscribe to international health insurance before moving to Australia. Some of the leading insurance providers are:

Consider having a look at their offers according to your needs and get a free quote on's Health Insurance for expats in Australia page.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.