Health And Healthcare In Australia

Conditions in Australia make it important to watch your health and make use of the Australian healthcare system.

Health

Australia is a large country and therefore has a wide range of climates from the temperate zones in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales in the south of the country to the tropical and monsoon areas in the north of Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia.  It is the driest continent and vast areas are arid or semi-arid.

The summers can be very hot in many parts of the country and in the outback temperatures can reach over 100° F/40°C.  Australia has some of the highest levels of skin cancer in the world and high level sunscreen protection is recommended as is wearing a hat.

Australia also has many dangerous animals and some of the most poisonous snakes and insects in the world and you should therefore take precautions.  Take advice from locals and where it says ‘crocodiles inhabit this water’, do not swim there!  Snakes do not attack and will slither off if they hear you coming.  Advice is therefore to make sure you make plenty of noise when walking through long grass and wear shoes rather than flipflops!  Redbacks and Funnel Web spiders are the only poisonous spiders in Australia and it is very rare to see one.  Bites by spiders are incredibly rare and there have been no recorded deaths from spiders since anti-venom was introduced in the 1970’s.

 

Healthcare System

Australia’s healthcare system is a mix state and private care. Partnership between the two sectors is actively encouraged. Medicare is Australia’s system of universal medical cover was introduced in 1984.  All taxpayers contribute 1.5% (2.5% for higher earners) of income to Medicare. The remaining funding comes from central government.

Most people are covered for 100% of in-patient care and roughly 75% of primary care (GP) charges. Dental and optical care is not covered by Medicare.  Foreign residents are eligible for Medicare benefits provided they have permanent resident visas.  Reciprocal arrangements exist with the UK and some other countries that means that you qualify for Medicare, but this covers immediate necessary medical treatment in the public health system, but aren’t otherwise entitled to benefits and should still consider taking out Overseas Visitors Health Cover.  This will cover you for private healthcare or cover the shortfall and may be required initially to meet the requirements of your visa even if you will qualify for Medicare.

The Australian Department of Human Services has a useful tool to help you find your local Medicare office where you can apply to join Medicare.   You will need to complete the Medicare Enrolment Application Form if you hold a relevant visa, have applied for permanent residency or are a visitor from a reciprocal health care agreement country.  The form covers up to five people and you will need to return your completed form with an original or certified copy of your current passports and valid visa or original visa grant letter for all people listed on the application to your nearest Medicare Service Centre. For initial enrolments, all people 15 years of age and over on the application must go with you to a Medicare Service Centre.

Provided you qualify for Medicare you can get a rebate against the cost of your private health insurance premiums.  This rebate is income tested, which means your eligibility to receive it depends on your income. If you have a higher income, the rebate entitlement may be reduced, or you may not be entitled to any rebate at all.

If you do not have adequate private health insurance cover, and your income for Medicare levy surcharge (MLS) purposes is above a certain threshold, you will be required to pay the MLS. The rate of MLS you pay depends on your income for MLS purposes. This applies unless you (and your dependents if you have them) are exempt from paying the Medicare levy.

The private health insurance rebate can be claimed as a reduction in the private health insurance premiums paid or it can be a refundable tax offset when you lodge your tax return.

 

Doctors

Australia provides primary care through General Practitioners (GPs) who will refer patients to specialists when required.  Many specialists require a referral from a GP before seeing a patient.

Emergencies

GPs are available at Emergency Medical Centres or for more acute emergencies most hospitals have Accident & Emergency Departments.

Emergency telephone numbers
Ambulance, Fire, Police 000