Whether traveling abroad for a short or long stay, the question of health insurance will necessarily arise. Many countries do not have healthcare agreements with Australia and if you are from one of those countries you cannot benefit from the Australian healthcare system. This means you will be required to take out additional travel insurance for Australia.
Medicare – The Australian Healthcare System
In Australia the social insurance system is called Medicare. To qualify for Medicare in Australia you must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident. When you are registered in the Australian social system Medicare will reimburse your medical expenses (general practitioners, specialists in some cases and hospital expenses).
Some European countries have health agreements with Australia. People from these countries can benefit from Medicare. This is the case, for example, with Belgium and Switzerland. However you should be aware that additional insurance is still advisable as the coverage provided to foreign nationals under these agreements may be less then that for Australian citizens.
It is important to remember that for obtaining certain Visas, such as the Working Holiday Visa you are required to have health insurance for the entire duration of your stay.
More information on Medicare – Australian Healthcare
Getting treatment in Australia
Once you arrive in Australia you may be confronted with a health issue, need to go to the doctor or renew a prescription.
Know that for emergencies (such as snakebites, spider bites, car accidents) you must dial 000, the emergency number in Australia.
If you go to a general practitioner, called a GP or General Practitioner in Australia, your supplementary insurance wil most likely require you to provide the invoice related to the consultation. For those benefiting from Medicare note that if you consult a doctor who “Bulk Bills” you will not have to pay anything, otherwise Medicare will cover 75% of the price of the consultation.
If you have an accident and have to go to the emergency room of a hospital there are two possible situation. If you are on Medicare you will be 100% covered in a public hospital. For others your health insurance will cover your hospitalization costs. Know that your supplementary insurance may have agreements with private hospitals allowing you to be treated in a private hospital.
Finally for special cases such as pregnancy know that supplementary health insurance rarely covers this. Make sure sure to inquire about these kind of situations before you subscribe.
If you get sick and have to go to the doctor
The doctor is called GP (General Practitioner) in Australia. You will find many medical practices in the cities and some are open seven days a week and can accommodate you without an appointment (prepare for a long wait though…). For most practices you are required to make an appointment first. The price for a consultation varies between 50 AUD and 80 AUD depending on the city and medical practice. Always make sure to ask about the applicable rates before making an appointment.
If you have an accident and have to go to the hospital
As in many countries around the world Australia has public and private hospitals. For those who do not benefit from Medicare it does not really make a difference. If your hospitalisation is urgent we advise you to contact your insurance as soon as possible. If you can not because of your condition, ask a friend or relative to do it for you. Know that depending on your insurance you will might be required to advance the fees and get them reimbursed by your insurance at a later time. Or all the expenses will be paid directly by your insurance. These costs may include ambulance fees, hospital charges and pharmaceutical fees.