Healthcare in Australia

Health Doctors and dentists offer a high quality of service within the public and private sectors. All Australian citizens, permanent residents and overseas visitors from countries with a reciprocal health care agreement are covered by the Australian Government’s health program, Medicare. Private Health Insurance is encouraged and for most overseas visitors, it is a requirement of their visa depending on where they are from and the type of visa they have. The main elements of the program are outlined below. 


Medicare is the national health scheme provided by the Commonwealth Government.   Medicare gives Australian residents access to health care. It is partly funded by taxpayers who pay a Medicare levy of 2% of their taxable income.

Your Medicare levy is reduced if your taxable income is below a certain threshold. In some cases, you may not have to pay the levy at all.

If you don’t have private hospital health insurance, you may have to pay the Medicare levy surcharge (MLS) in addition to the Medicare levy. This depends on your income for MLS purposes.

It is necessary to enrol in Medicare and obtain your Medicare Card. Applications must be made in person at any branch office, or call 13 20 11.  Eligible expats wishing to use Medicare will need to register with their passport, travel documents and permanent visa to have a Medicare card issued to them. This process usually takes between three weeks and a month and should be done one week after arrival in Australia.

International transferees will be required to show their passports.

Interstate transferees are only required to quote their Medicare number and advise their change of address.

Medicare and Expatriates

Some expatriates qualify for limited Medicare cover under Reciprocal Health Care Arrangements between Australia and certain countries. Holders of temporary residence (visa class TSS 482) who usually reside in the Belgium, United Kingdom, Sweden, Italy, The Netherlands, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, Ireland, Slovenia and Malta are entitled to immediate necessary medical and hospital treatment.

People from New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Sweden, The Netherlands and Finland are entitled to this limited Medicare cover for the duration of their stay in Australia, whilst visitors from Italy and Malta are entitled to this cover for the first six months of their residence in Australia only.

New Zealand passport holders can receive free public hospital treatment, but not medical treatments to General Practitioners. All new assignees, except those from countries with relevant health care agreements, will therefore need to ensure that they have private medical coverage for themselves and their families upon arrival in Australia.

Private Health Insurance

Several private health funds provide health cover for overseas visitors. Some have special tables of benefits for overseas visitors and others provide similar coverage under hospital tables available to Australian residents. Benefits available, membership costs and eligibility can vary between funds.

This insurance covers a range of costs including private hospital care and various services such as dental, optical, physiotherapy, ambulance and pharmaceutical.

Temporary residents with working visas are not entitled to this form of private insurance and will need to take out specific private insurance. The insurance should be obtained as soon as possible after arriving in Australia. Some funds provide policies that, if taken out within two weeks of arriving in Australia, enable immediate coverage without a qualifying period. Insurance policies are available from several funds, each with different premiums, qualifying periods and conditions.

Visit the Private Healthcare Australia website for Overseas Visitors Healthcare Cover contact details.

Health Practitioners

When seeing a medical practitioner it is also important to check that they have been issued with a Medicare provider number.  Doctors either bill Medicare directly or if the patient pays then that individual is able to claim the rebate from Medicare. The rebate is then paid electronically into the claimant’s account.  HealthEngine is Australia’s largest online health marketplace helping you to find and book doctors, after hours GPs, bulk billing GPs, dentists, physiotherapists and chiropractors.

Infant Welfare Clinics

All local municipal councils operate Infant Welfare Clinics at numerous locations in the municipality for the benefit of mothers with pre-school age children. A trained nursing sister is in attendance at various hours during the week to check children’s health and progress and to arrange immunizations. These services are usually free.

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