Health care for visitors to Australia

If you’re visiting Australia from certain countries, you may be entitled to some subsidised health services under our Reciprocal Health Care Agreements.

RHCA countries

The Australian Government has signed Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) with:

  • Belgium
  • Finland
  • the Republic of Ireland
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • the Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden and
  • the United Kingdom (UK)

These agreements entitle you to some subsidised health services for essential medical treatment while visiting Australia.

Period of cover

You’re covered for the length of your stay in Australia, as long as you have a current and valid visa and you’re a resident of:

  • the Republic of Ireland
  • Finland
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Sweden, and
  • the UK

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

If you’re visiting from Malta or Italy, and you’re a resident or citizen of those countries, you’re covered by Medicare for a period of 6 months from the date of your arrival in Australia.

Access to cover

RHCA cover medically essential treatment. This means any ill health or injury which occurs while you’re in Australia and requires treatment before you return home.

If you applied for or received a Subclass Visa 410, or Retiree Visa, before 1 December 1998, you may access Medicare under the RHCA of your home country.

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


You’re covered by Medicare if you’re in Australia on a student visa from:

  • Belgium
  • Italy
  • the Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden, or
  • the UK

Students from Norway, Finland, Malta and the Republic of Ireland aren’t covered by the agreements with those countries.

With the exception of students from Belgium, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden, it’s a condition of your student visa that you take out Overseas Student Health Cover before arriving in Australia.

Your entitlements

As a resident of the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Norway, Slovenia, Malta or Italy, while you’re in Australia you’re entitled to:

  • free treatment as a public in-patient or out-patient in a public hospital
  • subsidised medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), and
  • 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. This includes medically necessary medicines available on prescription, which are subsidised under the PBS at the general rate, for outpatients.

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:

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. Not all doctors bulk bill.

The doctor gives you a bill

Doctors who don’t bulk bill will ask you to pay a fee at the time of consultation. Either pay the full bill or submit the unpaid bill with Medicare.

If you pay the full bill at the time of consultation, you can:

Benefits will only be paid into an Australian bank account, so you need to register your bank account details with us.

If you don’t pay the full bill at the time of consultation, you can:

  • take the unpaid bill and a completed Medicare claim form to a service centre, or
  • send it to Department of Human Services, GPO Box 9822, in your capital city - we’ll send you a cheque made payable to the doctor that you take to your doctor and pay the difference between the Medicare benefit and the total fee charged by the doctor

Treatment in a hospital

Show your passport or reciprocal health care card to staff when you arrive at the hospital to get essential medical treatment as a public patient in a public hospital. You won't be charged for any treatment or accommodation.

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

Medical services not covered by Medicare

Medicare won’t 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
  • home nursing

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

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Page last updated: 28 November 2016

This information was printed Sunday 20 August 2017 from It may not include all of the relevant information on this topic. Please consider any relevant site notices at when using this material.