The public health system in Australia is called Medicare, which aims to give all Australian citizens and permanent residents access to good quality, free or low cost health care. It allows you to be treated as a public patient in a public hospital free of charge and be seen by a doctor either free of charge (if the practice or medical center bulk bills*) or at minimal cost. Medicare covers most traditional health care but may not cover you for alternative or non traditional therapies.
Am I entitled to Medicare?
- If you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident you are automatically entitled to Medicare.
- Overseas visitors with a working/holiday visa are entitled to Medicare if they are from one of the following countries that have a reciprocal health care agreement with Australia: Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Norway, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Slovenia and the UK.
- Overseas students from Belgium, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and the UK are also entitled to Medicare benefits but remember Overseas Student Cover is also a requirement of your visa (see Health Insurance for more information).
- If you are a temporary resident who is waiting for their permanent resident application to be approved you may be issued with an ‘interim’ Medicare card.
How do I apply for a Medicare card?
To apply for a Medicare card you need to fill out a Medicare Enrollment form and will need to provide original or certified copies of documents, such as your passport or birth certificate to prove you are eligible. You can enroll in your local Medicare office.
For more information on Medicare and office locations go to: www.humanservices.gov.au
What is Bulk Billing?
* Bulk billing is where the doctor charges Medicare directly with no additional cost to you. If you are charged a fee you can reclaim up to 85% of the cost from Medicare as a rebate. People from countries that are entitled to Medicare due to having a reciprocal health agreement with Australia are not entitled to bulk billing services. It is valid only for Australian citizens and permanent residents who receive full Medicare benefits.
Medicare gives Australian residents access to health care which is funded by taxpayers who pay a levy of 2% of their taxable income. If you don't have private health insurance you may have to pay a Medicare levy surcharge (MLS) to the Medicare levy but is completely dependent on your income for MLS purposes.
If you have an appropriate level of hospital health insurance, then you won't have to pay the MLS.
For more information on medicare go to: www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Medicare-levy/