RHCA - Medical care for visitors to Australia

Some of your costs for medically necessary care in Australia may be covered if your country has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia.

From 1 November 2017 there are changes to some of the benefits visitors to Australia can get under these agreements. Read more on the Department of Health website.

What countries we have agreements with

The agreement conditions tell you:

  • what medical care you can get under Medicare while you visit Australia, and
  • the documents you need to show us to prove that you are eligible under the RHCA

Read the agreement conditions for the RHCA country you were living in before coming to Australia, from the list below.

We have agreements with:

What’s covered

The agreements cover medically necessary care. It must be:

  • care for illness or injury that can’t wait till you get home
  • care that Medicare covers

Who they cover

You must be meet the agreement conditions to be covered.

What may be different

You have a 405 or 410 visa

You’re not covered if you’re here on a:

  • 405 investor retirement visa
  • 410 retirement visa that you applied for after 1 December 1998

Read about health care for 405 and 410 visa holders.

You’re a student from one of these countries

You’re not covered if you’re a student from:

  • Finland
  • Malta
  • Norway
  • the Republic of Ireland

Most people need overseas student health cover to come to Australia on a student visa.

How long your cover lasts

It starts the day you arrive in Australia.

When it ends depends on the country you’re visiting from. You can only use it while you have a valid visa.

It ends on the day your visa expires if you’re from:

  • Finland
  • Norway
  • the Republic of Ireland
  • Sweden
  • the UK

It ends on the day your European Health Insurance Card expires, or the day your visa expires if earlier, if you’re from:

  • Belgium
  • the Netherlands
  • Slovenia

If you're from Italy or Malta, it ends:

  • after 6 months
  • the day your European Health Insurance Card expires, or
  • the day your visa expires, if earlier

What’s covered

If you’re from New Zealand or the Republic of Ireland

It covers:

  • medically necessary care as a public patient in a public hospital
  • prescription medicines at a lower price - this is the general rate for drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) list

If you’re from any of the other agreement countries

It covers:

  • medically necessary care out of hospital
  • medically necessary care as a public patient in a public hospital
  • prescription medicines at a lower price - this is the general rate for drugs in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

This is for visitors from:

  • Belgium
  • Finland
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • the Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden
  • the UK

What it doesn’t cover

It doesn’t cover:

  • medicines that aren’t in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
  • Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medicines for In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
  • care planned before you got to Australia
  • care for Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
  • private hospital care
  • public hospital care as a private patient
  • ambulance travel
  • dental care unless it’s in the Chronic Disease Management scheme
  • care from a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, eye therapist, chiropractor, podiatrist or psychologist unless it’s in the Chronic Disease Management scheme
  • acupuncture unless it’s from a doctor
  • glasses and contact lenses
  • hearing aids and other devices
  • prostheses
  • costs someone else is responsible for - for example an insurer, employer or government agency
  • care that isn’t clinically essential
  • cosmetic surgery
  • checks for life insurance or superannuation or to join a friendly society
  • home nursing

You can get private travel health insurance to cover many of these.

Enrol in Medicare

To enrol you need to visit a service centre with a completed Medicare enrolment application form and documents you need to show. For documents you need to show, refer to information under your country.

For treatment you had beforehand you can claim for an assessment of benefit after enrolling. Your benefit starts the day you arrived in Australia.

When you get care from a doctor

You can see a doctor in a private practice or a community health centre. It is up to the doctor how they charge you for the service.

They can charge you by:

  • giving you a bill to pay - most doctors in private practice do this
  • sending the bill straight to Medicare - we call this bulk billing (you must be enrolled in Medicare)

If the service is covered under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), you can get some of the cost back from Medicare as long as you have enrolled for Medicare.

See if your service is on the MBS list on the Department of Health MBS Online website.

If the doctor bills you

You can:

  • pay the bill on the day you see the doctor, or
  • take the unpaid bill to Medicare

It is up to the doctor if you have to pay them at the time of the service.

If you are required to pay on the day

You can:

We can only pay the money into an Australian bank account. You’ll need to give us your bank details.

If you aren’t required to pay on the day

You can:

You will also need to pay any difference owing to the doctor.

If the doctor bills Medicare - Bulk Billing

Show your reciprocal health care card and sign a Medicare form after you see the doctor. You won’t need to pay.

When you get care from a hospital

Go to a public hospital. Show your passport or reciprocal health care card to the staff. Tell them you want care as a public patient.

As a public patient in a public hospital you won’t have to pay for your stay or treatment there.

You’ll need to pay the full fees if you choose care:

  • as a private patient in a public hospital
  • in a private hospital

You can’t claim these fees back from Medicare.

Page last updated: 9 November 2017