Australia’s Healthcare System & The Importance Of Health Insurance

1 February 2017

How does Australia’s health system work? What is private health insurance? What is Medicare? Why do you need working visa health insurance or OSHC student health insurance in Australia?

How does Australia’s healthcare system work?

In Australia, our health system has two parts: the public health system (Medicare) and the private health system (insurance). Australian residents are covered by the public health system and they can choose if they want to also get private health insurance as well.

Do I need health insurance in Australia?

When you are coming here on a work or study visa, you must get health insurance because you are not covered by the public (Medicare) health system. If your family is travelling with you to Australia, they will also need health insurance. This health insurance means you can get medical treatment in the public system or the private system, but the public system is more expensive, as we will explain below.

There are some countries that do not need to get health insurance because they have an agreement with Australia. If you are from Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden, or the United Kingdom, you do not need to buy health insurance when you come to Australia.

How does Medicare and the public system work?

Medicare is the public health system by which the government provides free healthcare to Australian residents. However, many doctors and other health professionals charge higher fees than the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), so patients have to pay the “gap” between the MBS and the fee.

Medicare gives Australians free treatment and accommodation (staying at the hospital overnight) in public hospitals, free visits to bulk billing doctors (GPs), and a discount for treatment by many specialists. Find out more about Medicare here.

Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC), Working Visa Health Insurance, and Reciprocal Health Care Agreements give you about the same level of cover as Medicare would if you were an Australian resident. This will help cover the costs of visiting a public hospital, see a doctor, buy medicine, and travel in an ambulance.

How does health insurance work in Australia?

In the private health system in Australia, patients must pay for private health insurance in order to receive more benefits than they get in the public system.

The private system involves private healthcare providers, which are usually located in the same hospitals and facilities as public health providers, so they have all the same medical equipment and qualifications. In the private system, you will usually get to see a specialist doctor or other health services more quickly than in the public system, but the doctors can charge prices as expensive as they want. Australian residents who want to use the private system are encouraged to buy need health insurance because the private system is so expensive.

If you are coming to Australia to work or study, your health cover means you can get treatment in the public system or the private system if you want, but the private system will be more expensive because the doctors can charge more than your health insurance will cover. Overseas Student Health Cover or Working Visa Health Cover can provide cover for you to go to a private hospital.

Compare Australian health insurance policies

If you are looking for OSHC student health insurance or working visa health insurance, find the insurance that provides outstanding value. Compare health insurance for Australia on the CANSTAR website:

But you can also apply for more health insurance than just the Overseas Student Health Cover or Working Visa Health Cover. A general health (or “extras cover”) insurance policy can cover you for other medical expenses such as a trip to the dentist, physiotherapist, or optometrist. You can compare extras health insurance and find a good value policy for you by using the CANSTAR website:

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