Medicare Australia, health insurance… what you need to know

This article provides information and links to resources that will help you understand the Australian Health System.

The Australian Government funds three major national health schemes, Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and the 30% Private Health Insurance Rebate. These are funded via taxes and the income based Medicare Levy.

Get Medicare after you arrive. See how to below.

Do you have health insurance in NZ?
For the same reasons you should get health insurance in Australia

Australian residents are proactively encouraged to take out Private Health Cover (Health Insurance) to compliment Medicare services, including the 30% Health Insurance Rebate:

Suggested Health Care To Do List:

  1. Before settling in Australia obtain medical records for each member of your family (including immunisation records for the children – these are often asked for by schools and daycare centres).
  2. Research Private Health Insurance in Australia.
  3. One week after arriving in Australia visit or phone your local Medicare Office to enroll.
  4. Once you have been issued with your Medicare Card take it with you when:
    1. you visit a doctor
    2. or hospital
    3. when you have a prescription filled
    4. make a claim at a medicare office
  5. Consider registering for the Medicare Safety Net (keep your medical receipts).
  6. Let Medicare know if you change your address.
  7. If you have children visit the Australia Government Immunisation page.

Let us know in the comments section below if there is anything else you need to know we will do some research and add it to our online resources if possible.

Medicare Australia

Medicare is a publicly funded universal health care scheme in Australia. Operated by the government authority Medicare Australia, Medicare is the primary funder of health care in Australia, funding primary health care for Australian citizens and permanent residents (except for those on Norfolk Island).

Residents are entitled to subsidised treatment from medical practitioners, eligible midwives, nurse practitioners and allied health professionals who have been issued a Medicare provider number, and can also obtain free treatment in public hospitals.

Find more information on Medicare Australia here.

Private Health Insurance

If you are making plans to move to Australia, applying for health insurance is an important part of the process. Aside from that, it’s always a good idea to prepare for the unexpected.

In Australia, the public health system Medicare covers most Australian residents for health care. However, Medicare does not cover everything and you can choose to take out private health insurance to give yourself a wider range of health care options and more comprehensive cover.

There are two types of health insurance: hospital & general treatment (ancillary or extras). You can buy them separately or most funds offer combined policies. There will be limitations on what and when you can claim with any policy you buy.

Click here to get a competitive health insurance quote instantly, including different cover options.

The Private Health Insurance Rebate is a federal government subsidy for the cost of insurance, while the Lifetime Health Cover rules are designed to encourage people to purchase private health cover earlier and to stay covered. The Medicare Levy Surcharge is a tax that affects people earning above a certain threshold who don’t hold private hospital cover.

If you are in Australia on a temporary student visa or if you are applying for a visa subclass 457, it is a visa condition that you take out private health cover. If you are visiting Australia on any other visa, you should consider taking out some cover for the duration of your stay.

Find out more about Private Health Insurance here or get a quote instantly including different cover options.

Why do you need Health Insurance in Australia?

Private health insurance is important because there are things Australia’s Medicare system does not cover. The same reasons you have Health Insurance in New Zealand apply in Australia.

With Health Insurance you’ll get access to elective surgery, probably with your choice of doctor, in the comfort of a private hospital without having to wait months or even years.

In Australia, the taxpayer-funded Medicare health care system covers many medical, hospital and pharmaceutical costs. Under this system you can be treated as a public patient, at no charge, in a public hospital by a doctor appointed by the hospital.

However, as a public patient, you have to wait your turn and you are at the mercy of waiting lists for doctors and procedures. The same as in New Zealand.

The benefits of private health insurance include a greater choice of doctor than you would get in the public system, access to a private hospital that might be more comfortable than the public one, and probably a shorter wait for some forms of elective (non-urgent) surgery.

In the public system, if you need elective rather than emergency surgery you may have to wait months or even years. But with private health insurance you may be able to have elective surgery within weeks, possibly at a time and place convenient to you.

In addition, some forms of health care are not available for free in the public system. You have to meet the costs of your regular visits to the dentist, for instance.

Health Insurance Benefit Checklist:

Depending on the policy you take out, and within the annual maximum payouts set by the policy, private health insurance can cover costs such as:

  • Hospital expenses (theatre fees or accommodation) in a private hospital
  • Ambulance fees
  • Chiropractic treatment
  • Home nursing
  • Podiatry
  • Physiotherapy, occupational, speech and eye therapy
  • ‘Complementary’ therapies such as acupuncture
  • Glasses and contact lenses
  • Dental care
  • Pharmaceutical costs

Click here for more information on Health Insurance in Australia, how to join and what different cover options cost.

Still got questions?

If there is anything else you would like to know about, please ask me a question using the below comment system and I will do my best to find the information you need.

41 Comments

  1. Kathy Hunter

    August 20, 2019 at 12:46 am

    Hi, I’m a Kiwi and my husband’s an Australian. I’ve got multiple sclerosis, I was diagnosed with it here in NZ nine years ago and have been on what they call a “disease modifying drug” for the past two years. It is fully funded for me here. My husband and I often talk about moving back to Aussie but I’m not sure I would be eligible to have this treatment there. I haven’t asked my neurologist about it yet – I will do if we get more serious about moving back, but wondered if you might know anything about it?
    Thank you x

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      August 21, 2019 at 11:33 pm

      Hi Kathy,
      Thank you for your comment.
      Unfortunately I can’t find anything online that answers your question.
      You will need to talk to your neurologist. You will be able to get Medicare and private health insurance. You just need to know if the drug is available and funded in Australia.
      Please feel free to email me back any further questions you have.
      Good luck with your move.

      Reply
  2. John and Wendy

    July 23, 2019 at 9:56 pm

    Hi JJ,
    Love your informative website…
    Question please…. We are a couple in our early 70’s considering retirement on Sunshine Coast.
    We know we can get Australian pension and medicare card – and probably health card…
    If we need medical treatment for a pre existing condition at hospital are we automatically covered for that ?
    Regards John and Wendy

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      July 23, 2019 at 9:58 pm

      Hi John and Wendy,
      Thank you for your email.
      I have looked into this before and can’t find any exclusions for pre-existing medical conditions with Medicare, which is what will cover you.
      I would recommend you look into private health insurance in relation to your medical requirements: https://www.movingtoaustralia.co.nz/private-health-insurance/.
      BTW the Sunshine Coast is a beautiful place to retire. I’m sure you will love the warm weather and beautiful coast.
      Please feel free to email me back any further questions you have.
      Good luck with your move.

      Reply
  3. Tina

    May 23, 2019 at 12:41 am

    Hi,
    My name is Tina and was born and still living in New Zealand. My two kids and I are moving to Australia. Can you please help me and tell me what I need to do or make sure I have done before leaving New Zealand, for eg, do I need a letter from my family doctors? If so, what kind of letter?
    And any other proof I’ll also need to take with me to Australia? Do I need to fill out some forms/papers before leaving NZ?
    Thank you for your help.

    Reply
  4. Sara

    May 8, 2019 at 3:05 am

    Hi, loving your website! It sure is God sent 🙂
    With transfer of medical records what kind of records do I actually need to obtain and is this generally an electronic process or will I have to carry around hard copies of everything?

    Thank you for your help and time.

    Sara

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      May 8, 2019 at 11:39 pm

      Hi Sara,
      Thank you for your comment and lovely compliment.
      Most doctors now have electronic records and it should be simple request. People change doctors all the time and their records are transferred. However, you will need to take your plunket books if your children are still young.
      Good luck with your move.

      Reply
      • Sara

        May 14, 2019 at 4:40 pm

        Hi again,
        Thank you for your help.
        I can’t seem to find anything here on aged pension benefits for say my parents if they want to move soon after us. Are they eligible for the pension in Australia? Are you able to shed some light on this topic please? Sorry if asking in the wrong section.

        Reply
  5. Anna

    April 29, 2019 at 10:15 pm

    Hi there,
    We are looking at moving to Brisbane, Australia from New Zealand, I will be 34 weeks pregnant, while in NZ I’m eligible for paid maternity pay (as I have been working right up) do you know if there is any type of maternity pay I will be eligible for?
    Kind Regards,
    Anna

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      April 29, 2019 at 10:21 pm

      Hi Anna,
      Thank you for your message.
      Great news is that yes you are able to get Australia’s equivalent of NZ’s paid maternity leave.
      It’s quite different to NZ so I’ve written this post that will hopefully answer all your questions: https://www.movingtoaustralia.co.nz/new-zealanders-having-a-baby-in-australia/.
      If there is anything I haven’t covered please email me back.
      Good luck with your move.

      Reply
      • Anna

        April 30, 2019 at 10:37 pm

        Sorry! Another question.
        Paid leave in Australia, I can’t seem to follow how this works. Is it a weekly amount or lump sum?
        Kind Regards,
        Anna

        Reply
        • JJ Smith

          April 30, 2019 at 10:39 pm

          Hi Anna,
          Australia maternity leave is not as straight up as the NZ one. You get $550 upfront and a weekly payment for 13 weeks.
          The amount you receive depends on how many children you have and your family’s income. The maximum amount you can receive for your first child is $1,649.83. For subsequent children the maximum amount is $550.55.
          Here is a link to the Department of Human Services website, where you can find out how much you can get: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/family-tax-benefit/how-much-you-can-get. Unfortunately there is no easy to use calculator, you have to figure out each section based on your families income.
          Just to confirm you can receive the NZ maternity leave instead of the Australian option if it works out better for you.
          Happy to answer any further questions that pop up.

          Reply
          • JJ Smith

            June 5, 2019 at 10:05 pm

            Hi Anna,
            If your C-section isn’t elective and you need one then Medicare will cover your costs.
            If you give birth using the public hospital system, your costs will be covered by Medicare. Read this article: https://www.finder.com.au/health-insurance-cesarean-section.
            From all the info I’ve read online, the main downside of going public is that you will probably end up sharing a room, rather than private, getting your own room.
            You can get a no obligation private health insurance quote here: https://migration.bupa.com.au/.
            I would recommend you to call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak to a maternal child health nurse, but they aren’t funded to talk to people outside. If you have family over there, they might be able to call on your behalf. Their website is pretty good: https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/caesarean, but did not cover costs.
            Congratulations on the sale of your home! Make sure you read this article on foreign exchange, as you will want to keep as much of your money as possible when transferring it to Australia: https://www.movingtoaustralia.co.nz/foreign-exchange-money-transfer/.
            Please let me know if I can help in any other way.
            Thanks

            Reply
  6. Ben

    December 3, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    Hi,
    My wife and I are expecting next year around July and we wanna have the baby in Brisbane. What are the chances of this happening for us working around annual and maternity leaves as well as doctors check ups.
    Note that my wife is Australian originally from Brisbane so she has family there hence why she is wanting to give birth there but we live and work in Auckland and are trying to figure out how we are gonna make this work.
    Plus will she be able to receive financial support from the govt there after she has given birth?
    Any advice please?
    Kind Regards,
    Ben

    Reply
  7. Sarah Goldsmith

    August 26, 2015 at 5:16 am

    Hi team, great website resource. I just wondered if you could let me know what an NZ citizens entitlement to maternity leave is and if midwife care is full funded? I doubt I will have worked in AU for a year or more (definitely will have in NZ though) when we move. Hubby is an AU citizen so I’m not sure if that will help.

    Reply
  8. Ryan Wilson

    July 5, 2015 at 11:59 am

    Hi there,
    We are moving to Melbourne this August and we just want to ask about SCV and Medicare. Me and my wife are just resident here in New Zealand but our 4 months old baby is a New Zealand citizen, will she be eligible for Medicare? and is SCV automatically granted once she entered Australia? My wife and I have working visa to enter Australia.
    Thanks,
    Ryan

    Reply
  9. Suzanne Cochrane

    February 13, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    Hi there myself & husband & 3 children plan on moving to australia. Can you advise me if we should take Private Healthcare ? Or is Healthcare for British Citizens living in Australia provided?

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      February 16, 2015 at 8:53 am

      Hi Suzanne,
      Thank you for your enquiry.
      Do you have private healthcare in NZ? Australia works pretty similar to New Zealand.
      Medicare does cover some things, generally what is also free in NZ, but for anything extra you will need private healthcare.
      Click here for more information on Health Insurance in Australia, how to join and what different cover options are and how much they cost.
      Hope the above answers your questions.

      Reply
  10. Bridget

    May 13, 2014 at 4:08 am

    Hi there, we are moving to perth around xmas this year long term with my Husband and hoping to start a family the year after as I’m a nz cit will there be any help with pre and post birthcare or do we need health insurance this is the only part I’m worrying about can you please help with any info.

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      May 14, 2014 at 6:38 am

      Hi Bridget,
      Thank you for your enquiry.
      After searching/readi ng for half an hour I have not found an answer to your question. It might pay to call Medicare or a pregnancy care provider and ask them.
      However, you might be able to find some useful information on the Australian Government website regarding having a baby in Australia: http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/subjects/having-a-baby.
      Good luck and please let me know what you get on.

      Reply
  11. Vasa

    March 25, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    I have a three year old daughter that is up to date with her immunizations in New Zealand. She will be moving over in a month, and going straight into Daycare. I understand there are certain Immunization requirements to have access to Child Care benefits, Repayments etc..
    Is there a difference between NZ’s Immunization standards and Australian Childhood Immunization? i.e: Will she need additional vaccines before coming to Australia?

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      March 26, 2014 at 4:33 am

      Hi Vasa,
      Thank you for your enquiry.
      Unfortunately I have no knowledge on immunisations in Australia and can’t find the answer on the web.
      I recommend contacting a childcare in the area you are moving to, as they will be able to answer your question easily.
      However, you will need to apply for Medicare. You need to apply in person at a Medicare office. It is recommended you wait one week after your arrival in Australia before applying, to allow time for Medicare to receive your visa details from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. Please take your passport or travel document with you.
      Good luck with your move.

      Reply
  12. Mary

    November 29, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    My husband has a New Zealand Passport I’m on a British passport and we will be moving to Australia in March (husband) / April (myself and baby) next year. I am due to have our fist child in January.
    I am concerned how soon we (the baby and myself) would be eligible to medicare cover for things such as childhood immunizations as we will be arriving potentially just before the next set are due. I will be applying initially for a working visa then longer term for permanent residency and the baby under my visa. I was advised that as a British citizen I should have reciprocal medicare eligibility but it seems very hard to get definitive answers.
    My husband has an offer of salaried work starting in March.
    Thank you in advance for any advice or even advice on where to go to seek more answers!

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      December 2, 2013 at 7:59 am

      Hi Mary,
      Thank you for your email.
      I believe you and your child are covered by Medicare. However, I would definitely recommend contacting them directly on +61 131 673 (International Services call centre).
      Please let me know how you get on.

      Reply
  13. Danielle

    June 7, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Hi
    Do you know if Kiwi’s living in Australia are entitled to paid maternity leave if they have worked in Australia prior to going on leave?
    Regards
    Danielle

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      June 10, 2013 at 9:19 am

      Hi Danielle,
      Thank you for your enquiry.
      There are a lot of factors that need to be taken into account with Australian Parental Leave Pay.
      You can find all the information on the Australian Government Department of Human Services website: http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/centrelink/parental-leave-pay.
      It is probably easiest to simply give them a call 136 150 or visit one of their service centres.
      Please comment again on how you get on to help other visitors to the site.
      Thanks

      Reply
  14. Jamie Single

    March 6, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    We are moving to Brisbane in June with our three children. One has spina bifida. What we need to know is about accessing nappies, catheters etc and if we will have to pay for them. Also we were wondering about his wheelchair etc, will we need to buy one ourselves or is it the same as here in nz where they are provided.

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      March 12, 2013 at 3:36 am

      Good morning,
      Thank you for your comment.
      This is quite a specialised area that I do not know much about sorry.
      I recommend you do some Google searching and see what you find. Then join some Australia online community websites, where you can ask questions and talk to parents who would be able to help.
      Below are some resources I find in the search ‘help for parents with a Spina bifida child Australia’:
      – Australian Baby Center community website, where you can ask questions and find support: http://community.babycenter.com/groups/a3825/spina_bifida_kids
      – Spina Bifida Implications for schools: http://www.physicalasanything.com.au/lo/spinaBifida_050/spinaBifida_02.htm
      Also when I searched ‘government support for kids Spina bifida australia’. However, you will have to check/search for information in the territory you are looking at moving into:
      – Spina Bifida Association Listservs bring people together online to discuss topics such as parenting a child with spina bifida and growing up with spina bifida: http://www.spinabifidaassociation.org/site/c.evKRI7OXIoJ8H/b.8028963/k.BE67/Home.htm
      I hope this has helped in some way.
      Good Luck.

      Reply
  15. Donna

    January 13, 2013 at 2:13 am

    Good morning,
    I have an 11yr old son with Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic life long condition that requires regular hospital admissions. Would he still be able to access the public system in Australia if we move there?
    Thanks Donna

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      May 24, 2018 at 1:51 am

      Good morning Donna,
      Thank you for your comment.
      You should be able to get Medicare cover which will cover you for hospital admissions. However, it would not hurt to call them and discuss you circumstances with them, as they will be able to give you the best advice. Call Centrelink for free on 0800 441 248, they will be able to give you Medicare advice.
      Please let me know how you get on as this information may also help others.
      Kind Regards,
      MTA Team

      Reply
  16. Kara

    April 16, 2012 at 5:13 am

    Hi,
    Is this definitely available to all SCV NZ’ers or just those wanting perm.residence in Australia? In regards to medical insurance, is there a website that compares all the different options/costs available that you could recommend…
    Thanks again

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      May 1, 2012 at 6:29 am

      Hi Kara,
      Thank you for your enquiry.
      Yes, Medicare is available to all New Zealanders living and working in Australia, because of the Special Category Visa (SCV).
      Have you had a look at the Australia Government site on health insurance? This site allows you to compare health insurance policies (http://www.privatehealth.gov.au/dynamic/compare.aspx). It is a very helpful tool.
      Please let me know if you require further information.
      Kind Regards,
      MTA Team

      Reply

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