Moving to Australia from New Zealand?

Get all information you need to make a successful and stress-free move across the ditch.

Are you moving to Australia and want to know if your medication or needed operation is subsidised by the Australian Government? Find out how much things cost in Australia.

There are many things to consider when moving to Australia, and whether you can still get the prescription medication you need is high on the list.

There also might be an operation you’ve been told you might need, and you want to know if you will be covered under Medicare and how much it will cost.

The good news is that, as New Zealanders living in Australia on an SCV, we are covered under Medicare for the prescriptions and hospital care we need.

Find out below exactly how much your medication and operation will cost. For more information on Medicare, read my Medicare Australia post.

In this post you will find helpful information on:

Are prescription medications covered in Australia?

Medication is subsidised in Australia through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Under the PBS, the government subsidises the cost of medicine for most medical conditions. Most of the listed medicines are dispensed by pharmacists and used by patients at home. Some medicines are dangerous to administer and need medical supervision (such as chemotherapy drugs) and are only accessible at specialised medical services, usually hospitals.

The PBS Schedule lists all of the medicines available to be dispensed to patients at a Government-subsidised price. The Schedule is part of the wider Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme managed by the Department of Health and Aged Care and administered by Services Australia.

They now have the schedule online, and it is updated every month. This online searchable version contains:

  • All of the drugs listed on the PBS
  • Information on the conditions of use for the prescribing of PBS medicines
  • Detailed consumer information for medicines that have been prescribed by your doctor or dentist
  • What you can expect to pay for medicines.



The Scheme is available to all Australian residents who hold a current Medicare card. Overseas visitors from countries with which Australia has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) (New Zealand) are also eligible to access the Scheme.

You will need to provide your Medicare card every time you present your script to the pharmacist to receive subsidised medication.

You can read more about PBS on their website and search the PBS schedule to see if your medication is covered and what you can expect to pay.

Do you have to pay for medicine in Australia?

Like in New Zealand, you pay a proportion (a ‘co-payment’) for your PBS medicines, and the Government pays the rest of the cost. The co-payment arrangements help ensure that medicines remain affordable. The full cost of your medicine can be found on pbs.gov.au by searching for the medicine.

If you prefer a premium brand, then you will have to pay more than the co-payment for prescriptions.

Generally, the price of a medicine produced by different manufacturers is set at the same price. However, at the request of a manufacturer, the Government may allow an additional charge known as a Brand Premium, which is paid by the consumer. Typically, this happens when a medicine comes off patent, and a competing brand is listed at a reduced price. There is always a brand available without the extra cost, so you do not need to pay the brand premium if you do not want to.

Search the PBS schedule to see if your medication is covered and what you can expect to pay

Can I use my NZ prescription in Australia?

Overseas prescriptions cannot be filled in Australia. If the item is not restricted in Australia, a maximum of 3 months’ supply can be imported from overseas.

If you are staying in Australia longer than your medication will last, you will need to see a local doctor and get a new prescription. 

Operations and specialist services

The Australian Government Department of Health website has a tool for finding and understanding the costs of medical specialist services across Australia, including operations. You can search for a procedure or service or browse by category.

Information provided includes:

  • Name of service/procedure
  • Short description, which really helps if you are not sure about the medical name, like me
  • Typical fees and costs, what is included and excluded
  • Specialist fees
  • Treatment venue
  • Your care options, e.g. public or private hospital
  • Range of cost experiences
  • Fees and costs by state and territory
  • Explanation of fees and costs
  • MBS item(s) for this procedure

So, if you are worried about a procedure or surgery you may need after you move to Australia, use this tool, Medical Costs Finder, to find out how much it will cost you. 

Travelling to Australia with medicines

If you are taking your medication to Australia with you, then you should also take a valid prescription to confirm that the medicines you are carrying have been prescribed to you or provide a letter from your doctor that states you are under their treatment and that the medication(s) you are carrying has been prescribed for your personal use. Your doctor’s letter must specify the name of the medicine and dosage.

Ensure the medication remains in its original packaging with the dispensing label intact. This will assist with identifying each substance at the border. Be ready to declare all medication to the Australian Border Force upon arrival.

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), including NZ citizens.

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.

When researching Medicare, make sure you are visiting an Australian site and not the U.S. government health insurance program. Make sure you read my Medicare Australia post first, as it contains all the info you need as a New Zealander moving to Australia.

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8 Comments

  1. Audrey

    May 24, 2024 at 12:00 pm

    Hi,
    Thank you for this post.
    Please note that to apply for Medicare we are looking at 2 to 3 months wait. I’ve been in Perth since mid January and they only made contact with me 2 weeks ago.
    You can buy health insurance at a lower premium without Medicare card. So best to advise to keep their health insurance in NZ until Medicare card is received.
    Regards,
    Audrey

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      May 27, 2024 at 12:11 pm

      Hi Audrey,
      Thank you so much for sharing this info with me. I have added it to my Medicare Australia post to help other visitors.
      Please feel free to email me back any further questions you have.
      Thanks,
      JJ Smith

      Reply
  2. Bill

    May 23, 2024 at 12:25 pm

    Thank you for all your incredibly useful information.
    It is much appreciated.
    Bill

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      May 27, 2024 at 12:05 pm

      You’re welcome Bill!
      Please feel free to email me back any further questions you have.
      Thanks,
      JJ Smith

      Reply
  3. Raymond Van Der Riet

    May 22, 2024 at 6:23 pm

    We are currently moving over to Perth I’m slightly confused I’m get conflicting information on the amount of medication one can bring with them
    One article said 6 Months and another article said 3 months please help me clarify this issue

    Reply
  4. Glenys

    May 22, 2024 at 12:31 pm

    Firstly, I want to thank you for all the info you put out there for us who have moved to Oz recently.
    The receprical arrangement was brilliant a couple weeks ago for husband who was in Ballarat hospital for a week .
    We have been here since Dec 2023 and applied for Medicare in January. As you wrote, it takes a while, so we finally have a number and cards on our way! Due to COVID, my husband and I got it about a month ago. My daughter got onto them as the Antiviral meds are $1100 without Medicare and $30 with MC. So we had the number, so it’s all good now.
    I never did my homework before going to Oz, even though I had your emails, but as a 70-year-old and 89-year-old, it was huge.
    I am applying for a driver’s licence tomorrow to get an Australian license. Thanks so much for all the info you gave us.
    Regards Glenys

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      May 22, 2024 at 12:32 pm

      Hi Glenys,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to message me. I love getting feedback!
      So glad you have finally got your Medicare number, sure does make a difference.
      Enjoy your new life in Australia

      Reply

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