You’ve decided to finally live your dream of moving to Australia.
You have a job lined up, you’ve found the perfect place to live, and you’ve even connected with other expats online so that you’ll have a good network to pull from when you arrive.
But one crucial detail you haven’t quite figured out yet?
How healthcare in Australia actually works. You want to be covered in the event of an accident, illness, or injury, but you have no idea where to start.
This post will explain the most important things you need to know about Australian health care.
This way, you can decide if you’re really ready to move there, or if taking a vacation there is a better fit for you.
Understanding Australian Medicare
Australia has one of the top healthcare systems in the world, thanks in no small part to the publicly-funded Medicare program. It’s a bit of a blend between the privatized Medicare system in America and the National Health Service in the U.K.
If you get Medicare in Australia, you’ll still need to pay for your own medical are up front. However, the government will later reimburse you for those costs.
You need to know that Medicare covers inpatient care completely, but only covers 3/4 of the cost of primary care. In general, Medicare in Australia will cover things like specialist fees, medical exams/tests, and general practitioner’s fees.
Dental, vision, cosmetic surgery, ambulances, in-home nursing, ambulance services, and private hospital care are not covered.
When it comes to the costs of your prescriptions, Australians who are eligible for Medicare coverage will pay a maximum of only 35.87 AUD per prescription. Anything more than that is covered.
You can only apply for Medicare once you’ve gotten your permanent residence in Australia. This page from the Australian government’s Department of Home Affairs explains the best way to make that happen.
Australian Private Insurance
Earlier in this post, we mentioned that Medicare only covers 3/4 of the cost of primary care. Additionally, remember that not everything is covered by Medicare.
So, when it comes to healthcare in Australia, you’ll likely need to buy private insurance to serve as a kind of supplemental coverage.
For example, private insurance can help you with things like ambulatory services, private hospital care, and the costs of any ongoing health conditions not covered by Medicare.
The good news here is that the Australian government offers a rebate to policyholders, meaning that it’s partially subsidized. We recommend that you do as most expats and residents alike, and buy private insurance in addition to getting Medicare coverage.
What If You Don’t Qualify for Medicare?
While the Australian healthcare system has a lot to offer, as an expat, you likely won’t receive immediate Medicare coverage, since when you first move, you’ll likely be a temporary visa holder.
In this case, you’ll need to look into what’s known as the Overseas Visitor’s Health Cover, or OVHC for short.
This will help to offset at least a part of the costs of the hospital admission fee and some of your treatment costs. The plan also has General Treatment policies, which covers part of your dental/vision care.
Keep in mind that, as a temporary visa holder, you will not be eligible for total reimbursement.
You may have heard of Australia’s Reciprocal Healthcare Agreements (RHCA for short.) This means that expats from certain countries, like the U.K., are eligible for partial coverage in Australia.
However, as of this writing, American residents don’t qualify for RHCA coverage. That’s why it’s best if you just take out a private insurance policy for yourself.
Other Things to Know About Healthcare in Australia
There are still a few quick things you need to know about getting healthcare in Australia.
As an expat, you’ll need to get a referral from a general practitioner before you can be covered for any sort of specialist medical services. Additionally, if you’re over the age of 55, you’ll need to show that you have private health insurance in Australia before you can apply for a specific visa (like your retirement visa).
You may also be able to register for Lifetime Health Insurance Cover, as long as you’re over 31 years old or if you’ve been covered by Medicare for a year.
While the healthcare system in Australia can be a bit complex, the good news is that finding a place to get quality care is easy. All-in-one clinics are becoming increasingly popular in Australia.
This means that you won’t have to go around from one place to the next to get your medical needs taken care of.
To learn more about what you can expect from an all-in-one clinic, see here.
Understanding the Australian Healthcare System: Wrapping Up
While healthcare in Australia is generally excellent, you’ll need to make sure you completely understand the application process and eligibility requirements before you make your move there.
You should also be prepared to pay about 2% of your total income to Medicare taxes, or less if you earn below the income threshold (around 90,000 AUD). Also, remember that private hospitals don’t offer emergency services in Australia, so you will have to use the public system.
As you’ve likely seen from this post, the Australian healthcare system can be a bit confusing.
We recommend speaking with a private insurance provider before you arrive, to get a better feel for your coverage.
Looking for more advice about all things Australia? Want to know how to get the most out of your retirement if you’re moving there – or staying in California – in your golden years?
We’ve got you covered, so keep checking back with us to make sure you’re always in the know.