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The healthcare system in Australia
There are two types of health insurance scheme available to you in Australia: one public and one private.
The public healthcare system
The Australian Social Security system is called Social Welfare and consists of a system of social assistance to the most needy and a health insurance scheme called Medicare.
Healthcare cover is restricted to Australian citizens unless:
- you have acquired Australian citizenship,
- you are a permanent resident or about to become one,
- you come from New Zealand, UK, Italy, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Malta or Ireland,
- you have been resident in Australia for at least two years.
In these cases, you meet the conditions for entitlement to the Medicare healthcare system in Australia.
Foreign residents are not covered by the healthcare system and must take out private insurance.
Students are required to purchase Overseas Students Health Cover (a private health insurance for students) in order to obtain a visa.
What cover does Medicare provide?
A number of services are covered by the Medicare system:
- consultations with general practitioners and specialists,
- various types of medically-required surgery which has been prescribed by a specialist.
If you are hospitalised and choose to be treated as a "public patient" in a public hospital, a Medicare doctor will examine you and you will have nothing to pay to the hospital. But if you are admitted to a public or private hospital as a “private patient", you can choose your doctor but Medicare will cover only 75% of your costs.
To get 100% reimbursement in this case, you will need to take out private top-up insurance.
Dental care, alternative medicine and drugs are reimbursed at a very low rate or not at all.
You can choose the GP you want but depending on the level of medical cover and budget, the choice of doctor may be influenced by the reimbursement rate.
How much does Medicare cost?
In addition to taxes, the employee participates through a 1.5% contribution deducted directly from salary by the employer, so many services are free to an Australian who is covered by the Medicare system.
What you need to do:
All employees are automatically and compulsorily enrolled in Medicare.
The member receives a Medicare card which entitles them, in the event of hospitalisation or medical consultation, to a reimbursement of some of the costs, depending on the basic rate.
Full cover is provided for hospitalisation in the public sector or consultations with a general practitioner.
The private healthcare system
The private healthcare system is for those who do not qualify for Medicare.
It also covers care provided in private hospitals that is not covered by Medicare.
Date of publication May 3 2012