Will I have access to public healthcare in Australia when I move there as a GP?

11 April 2014 | UK/Ireland GPs | 4 minutes read

Will I have access to public healthcare in Australia when I move there as a GP?

Foreign Citizens’ Access to Public Healthcare in Australia in General Terms

For GPs moving from countries with government-paid or government-subsidised healthcare, it is a matter of understandable concern whether or not they will have access to public healthcare in Australia. The Australian public healthcare system is known as Medicare and assuming you are a resident of: the UK, New Zealand, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Norway, Slovenia, Malta, or Italy, the answer is generally yes, with some limitations. Depending on which services you will be accessing, or wish to access, as well as your country of residence or citizenship, you are likely to be eligible for Medicare- or state-funded services in hospitals, and in some cases also GP and specialist services. Unfortunately, at present Australia has no publically-funded dental insurance whatsoever, meaning you will need to rely on private health insurance for those services.

New Zealand Citizens’, Living in Australia, Access to Public Healthcare in Australia

Due to the broad similarities between Medicare and New Zealand’s National Healthcare System, and the historically close relationship and cultural ties between Australia and New Zealand, New Zealand citizens are eligible for full Medicare benefits while living in Australia. New Zealand citizens are required to provide two pieces of documentary proof of their residing in Australia in order to be granted a Medicare card, and both documents must be originals or certified copies. Examples of acceptable proof are: proof of sale of New Zealand residence; sale or lease agreement of property in Australia; gas/electricity bill; proof of employment. The above is true for New Zealand citizens only, and not for New Zealand residents. New Zealand residents are still covered under the reciprocal health care agreement between Australia and New Zealand and have access to the same services as do residents of the UK, Ireland, etc.

Residents of Countries with Reciprocal Health Care Agreements, including UK Citizens’, Access to Public Healthcare in Australia

Australia has signed Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with a number of countries, meaning that some public healthcare is accessible to the following groups:

  • UK residents (including citizens)
  • Irish residents
  • New Zealand residents
  • Swedish residents
  • Finnish residents
  • Belgian residents
  • Norwegian residents
  • Slovenian residents
  • Maltese residents
  • Italian residents

The Reciprocal Health Care Agreements entitles people belonging to the above groups to the following “following health or injury treatment” Medicare services:

  • free treatment as a public in-patient or out-patient in a public hospital
  • subsidised medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)
  • Medicare benefits for out-of-hospital treatment provided by a doctor.

Medicare access to the above services is not available wholesale, but rather is subject to a necessity test. According to Medicare, “Reciprocal Health Care Agreements cover treatment that is medically essential. This means any ill-health or injury which occurs while you are in Australia and requires treatment before you return home.” In reality, this will cover most of what you require in terms of medical services and care, however it is important that you are aware of this caveat, particularly when deciding on the most appropriate insurance plan.

Extended Access to Public Healthcare in Australia for Residents of the Republic of Ireland and New Zealand

As well as the above access to public healthcare, residents of Ireland and New Zealand are also entitled to the following while in Australia (even if they are not living here permanently):

  • services as a public patient in a public hospital (including outpatient services) for medically necessary treatment*
  • medicines available on prescription which are subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), at the general rate

* See the discussion of the “medically necessary” caveat in the previous paragraph.

For More Information

More information is available on the Medicare website. In particular, the articles on Medicare enrolment for New Zealand citizenshealthcare for visitors to Australia, and eligibility for a Medicare Card are likely to prove useful.

You may also request further information, and more detail, from your country’s embassy or consular office.

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