Health & Medical Care

The healthcare system in Australia is provided mainly by Medicare Australia. This is very high quality healthcare provided to Australian citizens and permanent residents. Due to the exceptional healthcare system the country’s population claims one of the highest life expectancies in the world. However there is no free healthcare for expats in the country. For those who decide to move here both private and public health care must be paid for. Payments will be for staying in a public hospital and for a general GP visit.

Exceptions may apply to citizens from the following countries which have Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with Australia: Italy, Malta, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and The Netherlands.
Reciprocal Health Agreements

Expats who move from countries that have reciprocal health agreements are entitled to:

  • Subsided medicines
  • Medical treatment by doctors at surgeries and community health centres
  • Free treatment at a public hospital as a in-patient or outpatient
  • If expats are from the listed countries, until they are granted permanent residency they
    are liable to medical bills so private health insurance should be bought

Expatriates Private Health Insurance (Compulsory)

For visas to be granted in Australia, expats must prove to the authorities that they are covered by a minimum level of private health care when moving to the country to work and live. More of this information can be located on the Department of Immigration and Citizens website.

If you are from any of the countries with reciprocal health agreement expats will still need to take out health insurance to qualify for their visa. An exemption can be obtained if you are on the agreement and then enrol in Medicate after arrival.

It is recommended that expats who are eligible for Medicare treatment acquire private health care insurance; this is also highly encouraged by the government. This insurance will cover what Medicare doesn’t and is compulsory. Private healthcare in Australia has many facilities and can be expensive but higher rate tax payers without this are penalised through the tax system if they do not take out the basic hospital cover. Private healthcare does not offer emergency services so expats will be relying on emergencies through public healthcare.


Medicare is a government funded health care system which is available for citizens and permanent residents of Australia and paid for through taxes levied on individual salaries. Medicare covers treatment in public hospitals and payment of complete or some of the cost of doctor’s consultations. When a patient has been seen by a specialist at Medicare and referred to a Doctor, Doctors may charge more and either bill Medicare directly or if the patient has paid, they are able to claim the payment back. Claims can be made by mail, telephone or at a Medicare office.

Expats who are eligible will need to register with travel documents, permanent visa and their passport. Applications for Medicare healthcare should be done one week after arrival in Australia and can take between three – four weeks for the Medicare card to be issued. It is important that expats get a referral from a general practitioner before seeing a specialist and have the cost of the consultation and procedures.
To apply for Medicare an application form is available online; however this should be taken to any Medicare Service Centre by person.

What benefits are provided by Medicare?

  • Eye tests
  • Medical Consultation Fees
  • Surgical procedures, excluding those for purely cosmetic purpose
  • Items for chronic disease management
  • Medical tests and examinations which are needed to treat diseases , this includes X-rays and pathology

What is not covered by Medicare?

  • Cosmetic procedures
  • Ambulance
  • Treatment in a private hospital
  • Dental treatment
  • Glasses, contact lenses and hearing aids
  • Home Nursing
  • Physiotherapy and occupational therapy

Public HealthCare

Australia’s public healthcare is quite efficient however expats should still be expecting queues and waiting lists for non-emergency surgery. Whether you’re living in the rural or urban areas of Australia the facilities can differ and it may be necessary to travel distances to receive the appropriate care.
Due to this, most expats without permanent residency chose to use private doctors and hospitals. These public services are only used in the case of emergencies.