Health care for visitors to Australia

The Australian Government has signed Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) with the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Norway, Slovenia, Malta and Italy. These agreements entitle you to some subsidised health services for essential medical treatment while visiting Australia.

If you applied for, or received a Subclass Visa 410 (Retiree Visa) before 1 December 1998, you may be able to access Medicare under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement of your home country.

If you applied for Subclass Visa 410 after 1 December 1998, you’re not eligible for Medicare and you’re not covered under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreements.

Period of cover

If you are a resident of New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Finland or Norway, you are covered for the length of your stay in Australia.

If you are a visitor from Belgium, the Netherlands or Slovenia, you need your European Health Insurance card to enrol in Medicare. You are eligible until the expiry date shown on the card, or for the length of your authorised stay in Australia, if that is an earlier date.

If you are visiting from Malta or Italy, and you are a resident and citizen of those countries, you’ll be covered by Medicare for a period of six months from the date of your arrival in Australia.

Access to cover

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.

Students

If you are in Australia on a student visa from the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Slovenia, Italy or New Zealand, you are covered by Medicare. Students from Norway, Finland, Malta and the Republic of Ireland are not covered by the agreements with those countries.

Note: With the exception of students from Belgium, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden it is a condition of your student visa that you take out Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).

Your entitlements

As a resident of one of these countries, the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Norway, Slovenia, Malta and Italy, you are entitled to the following health or injury treatments while you are in Australia:

  • 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.

Residents of the Republic of Ireland and New Zealand are entitled to :

  • 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.

Treatment outside a hospital

You can get medical treatment in private doctors’ practices and community health centres. Doctors in these practices charge for their services in one of the following ways.

1. The doctor bills Medicare directly

You’ll be asked to show your reciprocal health care card and sign a completed Medicare bulk bill form after seeing the doctor but you won’t need to pay. Please note not all doctors bulk bill.

2. The doctor gives you a bill

Doctors who don’t bulk bill will ask you to pay a fee at the time of consultation. You can either pay the full bill, or lodge the unpaid bill with Medicare.
If you pay the full bill at the time of consultation, you can:

  • ask the reception staff if they can lodge your Medicare claim for you
  • claim your benefit in person at a DHS Service Centre
  • send a completed Medicare claim form, the original doctor’s bill and receipt to the Department of Human Services, GPO Box 9822, in your capital city. We will send you a cheque to cover the Medicare portion of the bill.
  • claim through our Online Services
  • claim over the phone by calling 132 011.

To lodge your unpaid bill you need to:

  • take the unpaid bill and a completed claim form to a DHS Service Centre, or send it to the Department of Human Services, GPO Box 9822, in your capital city. We will send you a cheque made payable to the doctor
  • take the cheque to your doctor and pay the difference between the Medicare benefit and the total fee charged by the doctor.

Treatment in a hospital

If you receive essential medical treatment as a public patient in a public hospital, you won’t be charged for any treatment or accommodation. Simply show your passport or reciprocal health care card to staff when you arrive at the hospital.

If you elect to be treated as a private patient in a public hospital or as a private patient in a private hospital, you will be charged for both medical treatment and accommodation. These fees can’t be claimed from Medicare.

3. Medical services not covered by Medicare

Medicare will not cover:

  • medicine not subsidised under the PBS
  • treatment arranged before your visit to Australia
  • accommodation and medical treatment in a private hospital
  • accommodation and medical treatment as a private patient in a public hospital
  • ambulance services
  • dental examinations and treatment (except specified items introduced for allied health services as part of the Chronic Disease Management (CDM) program
  • physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, eye therapy, chiropractic services, podiatry or psychology (except specified items introduced for allied health services as part of the CDM program
  • acupuncture (unless part of a doctor's consultation)
  • glasses and contact lenses
  • hearing aids and other appliances
  • the cost of prostheses
  • medical costs for which someone else is responsible (for example a compensation insurer, an employer, a government or government authority)
  • medical services which are not clinically necessary
  • surgery solely for cosmetic reasons
  • examinations for life insurance, superannuation or membership of a friendly society
  • eye therapy
  • home nursing.

You can take out private health insurance to cover many of these services.