Health care for temporary visa holders

If you are in Australia on a temporary visa, you will need to take out private health insurance, such as a 457 visa. You’ll also need to take private health insurance if you are on a 410 or 405 retirement visa issued after 1 December 1998.

Most student visa holders will also have to take out private health insurance. Exceptions occur for students from some countries with a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia (see below).

Australia has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with some countries. Under these agreements, certain health services and subsidised medicines are provided to visitors from these countries when they are in Australia. Australia has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with:

Belgium

Finland

Italy

Malta

The Netherlands

New Zealand

Norway

Republic of Ireland

Slovenia

Swedon and

the United Kingdom

The agreements vary from country to country. If you are from one of these countries you can check what you’re covered for here.

Health care for permanent residents

Medicare

If you arrive in Australia as a permanent resident, you should obtain a Medicare card as soon as possible. The federal government’s Department of Human Services explains how to get a Medicare card here.

Medicare is the name of Australia’s universal health service which is “free”, or at least subsidised, at the point of service for Australian citizens and permanent residents.

Some people just rely on Medicare cover while others engage a mix of both Medicare and private health insurance.

(If you are in Australia on a Temporary Visa, you will need to take out private health insurance – see above.)

Medicare cover gives you “free” (tax-payer funded) treatment and accommodation in a public hospital. However you cannot choose your hospital, the timing of your treatment or your specialists.

Medical costs that Medicare does not cover include:

  • ambulance services – many people take out some type of ambulance insurance to cover the cost of a potential ambulance call out.
  • most dental examinations and treatment
  • most physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, eye therapy, chiropractic services, podiatry and psychology services
  • acupuncture (unless part of a doctor’s consultation)
  • glasses and contact lenses
  • hearing aids and other appliances
  • home nursing

Private health insurance

Though private health insurance is not compulsory for Australia citizens or permanent residents, there are incentives to carry it out for 30 year olds and above.

Private insurance can cover some or all of the costs of a range of other items or services not covered by Medicare, such as ambulance services, dental services, prescription glasses, and physiotherapy.

Visiting a doctor

Most suburbs have a doctors’ surgery. On your first visit, you’ll likely be asked to fill out a new patient form.

The GP may then write you a prescription, order further diagnostic testing, refer you onto a specialist or pursue other treatments.

Many surgeries will charge you for visiting a doctor. If you have a Medicare card, you will be reimbursed a portion of the visitation fee by the government.

Bulk Billing

Some surgeries use “bulk billing”. Bulk billing is when your health professional accepts the Medicare benefit as full payment for a service. This means you don’t get charged for your visit.

Hospitals

Public hospitals are funded by the state, territory and Australian governments and managed by state and territory governments. Meanwhile private hospitals are owned and operated by the private sector.

Private patients have more control in choosing their treating doctor in hospital and may be able to reduce their waiting time for elective surgery by having treatment in a private hospital.

A person can choose to be treated as a public patient in a public hospital, even if they have private health insurance.

More than half the population of Australia have some form of private health cover in Australia, according to the Private Health Insurance Administration Council 2015-16 report.