Moving To Australia? Here’s What You Need To Know About Medical Insurance

If you’re planning to live and work in Australia, it’s important to understand how the health system works because like most countries, medical attention is expensive. The last thing you want is to end up spending the money you’ve put aside for a great Aussie holiday on a bed in hospital!

Australia has both public and private healthcare systems.

The public healthcare system, known as Medicare, gives most Australians free or discounted health services. Medicare benefits can also be available to people from countries with a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) ie. the United Kingdom; New Zealand; Italy; Belgium; Malta; Netherlands; Sweden; Finland; Norway; Slovenia; and the Republic of Ireland.

It’s important to know that even if you come from a country with an RHCA agreement, some visas do not provide access to Medicare. If you come from one of the RHCA countries above, contact Medicare to make sure you’re aware of exactly what cover you’re entitled to.

If you’re not eligible for Reciprocal Medicare, you’ll definitely need private health insurance… and even if you are eligible for Medicare you may want to consider it. That’s because it will cover you for an emergency trip to hospital by ambulance as well as helping towards the cost of a number of treatments in a private hospital, outpatient visits, doctor’s fees and even prescription medications.

The Fees You Can Expect To Pay


Medical Attention

Doctors, surgeons and anaesthetists have a set fee called the Medicare Benefits Schedule fee, which is covered by Medicare if the procedure is performed in a public hospital and if you’re covered by Reciprocal Medicare arrangements.

On top of the MBS fee, many specialists will charge an additional fee, known as an ‘out of pocket’ fee.

Private health insurance companies differ in terms of how much of the out of pocket fee they will cover you for, depending on the arrangement they have in place with the private hospital or day surgery. If you’re considering taking private health insurance, this is something to be mindful of.


Prescription medications in Australia can be expensive with costs varying enormously, depending on the medication itself.

The cost of medication prescribed outside a hospital, (for example, at a doctor’s clinic) is subsidised by Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which is available to all people covered by Medicare. For most pharmaceuticals, the patient will need to make an out of pocket contribution, which will vary according to the particular medication prescribed. That means even if you’re covered by your country’s RHCA agreement, you can expect to have to make a financial contribution. Private health insurance policies for foreign workers may also cover part of the cost of prescription medications.

Part or all of the costs of medications administered in hospital may be covered by your country’s RHCA agreement and/or private medical insurance. Again, it’s important to choose your policy carefully as this will determine the cover you receive for any medications. If your country has an RHCA Agreement with Australia, contact Medicare to clarify your cover for medications.

Read more information about the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in Australia here.

You Must Have Health Cover Before You Come To Australia

According to the Australian Government, as part of your visa application you will need to provide evidence of adequate health insurance for the duration of your stay in Australia, such as:

  • A certification letter from your health insurer or broker
  • Evidence that you have enrolled with Medicare if your country has a Reciprocal Health Arrangement with Australia (New Zealand and Republic of Ireland passport holders only need to provide the biodata page of their passport to satisfy this requirement)
  • The health insurance standard template letter completed by your insurance provider.

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