Your mini guide to health insurance in Australia
Planning to move to or visit Australia? You’ll likely be wondering how the healthcare system works in the land ‘down under’ and whether it’s wise to secure a private health insurance plan. This mini guide tells you everything you need to know by shedding light on the country’s healthcare and health insurance landscape. Read on to learn more or click the below to obtain a free, no-obligation quote.
As the smallest continent and one of the largest countries on Earth, the Commonwealth of Australia (or Australia for short) is located between the Pacific and Indian oceans in the Southern Hemisphere. Its capital is Canberra in the southeast of the country, and in between the larger and more important economic and cultural hubs of Sydney and Melbourne. Australia is one of the world's most multicultural nations and home to 25 million people from almost 200 countries, including indigenous peoples who have been there for more than 60,000 years. Its official language is English, it uses the Australian Dollar, and it has a proud history of democracy.
Healthcare system in Australia
Australia has one of the most comprehensive healthcare systems in the world, providing many services from preventative to specialist healthcare. It comprises two key components, the public health system (generally funded by tax through a program called Medicare) and the private health system (generally funded by patients or private health insurers). Australian citizens and permanent residents (PRs) are able to access one or the other or use a mix of both. When it comes to expats in Australia, they can’t enroll in Medicare.
Public healthcare system
Many entities make up Australia’s public healthcare system, such as public hospitals, community-based services, and affiliated health organizations, and the responsibility for providing healthcare services is split between the state and federal governments. Public hospitals are known for their high-quality care at a low or even no cost for those with access to Medicare, and are the places most people will go to during a medical emergency.
However, just like their counterparts in many other countries, public hospitals in Australia have their fair share of flaws. In the event of non-urgent treatment, wait times are usually longer. Moreover, patients aren’t generally able to choose their doctors and have to go with the doctor that’s on-call for their specific health condition. Having to share a room with others is also common in public hospitals.
The government in Australia pays for Medicare through the Medicare levy, which comes from the income tax of working Australians. For those eligible and have enrolled in the program, it pays for some or all of the costs of their necessary healthcare - but this may not include all medical services. The Medical Benefits Schedule (MBS) lists out the services that are paid for. The program also aims to make some medicine more affordable through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Private healthcare system
As for the private healthcare system, private hospitals are owned and operated by private organizations, but are still licensed and regulated by the government. Being treated at a private hospital tends to give patients far more choice and urgency in their care. For example, choosing your own doctor. Wait times for non-urgent treatment are also shorter and patients typically get better amenities like a private room and a more comfortable environment.
There’s also the option of going to a public hospital as a private patient, which will also give you the same benefits. You’ll be able to choose your own doctor and have a private room, and may also be transferred to a private hospital for follow-up care if necessary. In this case, the cost of medical care, which can be quite high, is usually paid for by the patient, by a private health insurance plan, or both.
Comprehensive private health insurance for expats in Australia
Expats moving to Australia are not eligible for Medicare, unless they have PR status in the country, which makes private health insurance a very attractive option. As a matter of fact, many visa categories will require proof of adequate health insurance coverage. For tourists and short-term visitors to Australia, it also goes without saying that private health insurance should be secured for peace of mind and in order to avoid sky-high out-of-pocket payments.
Whether you’re looking for expat health insurance or overseas visitor insurance in Australia, you’ll certainly be spoilt for choice. There are a number of insurers to choose from, and Pacific Prime has noticed that Bupa health insurance plans seem to be a popular option for clients. That said, we work with a range of insurers and are committed to being 100% impartial in our recommendations. Our ultimate goal is to match clients to the right insurer and plan for their needs and budgets.