Australia’s Reciprocal Healthcare Agreements

While Australia has a fantastic universal free healthcare system (Medicare), most visitors to Australia are unable to access it.

For international students or working visa employees in Australia, if you fall ill or have an accident, you may have to directly fund the full cost of your treatment. The Private Health Insurance Ombudsman advises that a public hospital admission for an uninsured patient can cost over $1,500 per day for the accommodation alone. Added to that will be the cost of medical fees and pharmaceuticals.

This is why international visitors to Australia are required to buy health insurance before they arrive unless their country has a Reciprocal Health Agreement with Australia. Both travel insurance and overseas visitors’ health cover (OVHC) can assist with the cost of medical treatment in Australia.

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Travellers from some countries may be covered by a Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with Australia if they are on a tourist visa or working visa. The Reciprocal Health Care Agreement means they can apply for benefits to cover the cost of immediate necessary medical treatment in the public health system.

Who does Australia have Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with?

There are 11 countries that have formed Reciprocal Health Care Agreements:

  1. Belgium
  2. Finland
  3. Italy
  4. Malta
  5. Netherlands
  6. New Zealand
  7. Norway
  8. Republic of Ireland
  9. Slovenia
  10. Sweden
  11. United Kingdom

Here is a rundown of the countries that currently have a reciprocal agreement and the entitlements:

Belgium

Visitors from Belgium are entitled to:

  • 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
  • 50% of the cost of ambulance travel

Belgians need a valid Belgian passport, their Belgian Health Insurance Card, and their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with the initials BE to enrol in Medicare. They are eligible for the above health cover until the expiry date shown on their visa, their EHIC card, or their Belgian Health Insurance Card – whichever is earlier.

Finland

Visitors from Finland are entitled to:

  • 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
  • Some travel costs to get medical care

They will need a valid Finnish passport, and if they are not a Finnish citizen, they will also need a Sickness Insurance card issued by the Finnish Social Insurance Institution, or a valid European Health Insurance Card with the initials FI, or 2 residency documents.

Finns are covered by the reciprocal agreement for the length of their stay in Australia until the expiry date on their visa.

Italy

Visitors from Italy are entitled to:

  • 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
  • Urgent dental care at public hospitals

Italians will need a valid Italian passport and either a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with the initials IT, or an Italian Health Insurance Card, or a statutory declaration. They’ll be covered by Medicare for a period of 6 months from the date of their arrival in Australia, or until the expiry of their visa, their EHIC, or their Italian Health Insurance Card – whichever is earlier.

Malta

Visitors from Malta are entitled to:

  • 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

Maltese visitors will need a valid Maltese passport and a current Maltese identity card. They will be covered by Medicare for a period of 6 months from the date of their arrival in Australia, or until their visa expires – whichever is earlier.

The Netherlands

Visitors from the Netherlands are entitled to:

  • 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
  • Other kinds of surgeries including paramedics and childbirth

To enrol in Medicare, visitors from the Netherlands need a valid Dutch passport, and either their European Health Insurance Card with the initials NL or evidence of valid insurance with the Netherlands Health Insurance Scheme.

Dutch visitors are eligible for the above health cover until the expiry date of their visa, their EHIC card, or their Netherlands health insurance – whichever is earlier.

New Zealand

Visitors from New Zealand are entitled to services as a public patient in a public hospital, including outpatient services, and they are entitled to medically necessary medicines available on prescription, which are subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), at the general rate. You’ll also receive cover for maternity services if required.

To receive treatment, New Zealanders will need a valid New Zealand passport, or a current certificate of identity endorsed showing the holder is entitled to be in New Zealand indefinitely, or a current refugee travel document from the government of New Zealand. New Zealanders are covered for the length of their stay in Australia, from the day they arrive to the day they leave.

Norway

Visitors from Norway are entitled to:

  • Subsidised prescription medicine
  • Ambulance travel and emergency dental care
  • Free health care for children up to the age of 12
  • Medicare benefits for out-of-hospital treatment provided by a doctor
  • Other treatments like birth care, oxygen therapy, dialysis and more

Norwegians need a valid Norwegian passport, and evidence of valid insurance with the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme, or a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with the initials NO. They are covered for the length of their stay in Australia until the expiry date on their visa, their Norwegian National Insurance, or their EHIC card.

The Republic of Ireland

Visitors from the Republic of Ireland are entitled to services as a public patient in a public hospital, and as out-patients, they are entitled to medically necessary medicines available on prescription, which are subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), at the general rate.

Irish visitors will need to be a resident in Ireland for more than 6 months before visiting Australia, and they will need a valid Irish passport or a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with the initials IE if you are not an Irish.

Irish visitors are covered for the length of their stay in Australia until the expiry date on their visa.

Slovenia

Visitors from Slovenia  are entitled to:

  • 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
  • Emergency ambulance travel

To enrol in Medicare, Slovenes need a valid Slovenian passport, and a valid European Health Insurance Card with the initials SI or evidence of eligibility for compulsory health insurance in the Republic of Slovenia. Slovenian visitors are eligible for the above cover until the expiry date on their visa, their EHIC card, or their Slovenian Health Insurance Card – whichever is earlier.

Sweden

Visitors from Sweden are entitled to:

  • 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
  • Free maternity services

Swedish visitors need a valid Swedish passport or one of the following:

  • A Health Insurance Certificate issued by a Swedish Social Insurance office
  • A valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with the initials SE
  • 2 residency documents

Coverage is for the length of their stay in Australia until the expiry date on their visa.

United Kingdom

Visitors from the United Kingdom are entitled to:

  • 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

British visitors need either a valid British passport (including passports issued in Isle of Man, Jersey, or Guernsey) or a valid Northern Ireland passport. Non-British citizens will also need to provide one of the following:

  • A valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with the initials UK
  • A National Health Insurance Medical card if you’re from Great Britain or the Isle of Man
  • A Health Service Medical card – Northern Ireland
  • A certificate issued by Social Security Committee of the States of Jersey
  • Proof of Insurance issued by the Guernsey States Insurance Authority or other proof of residence in the Bailiwick of Guernsey
  • 2 residency documents

Coverage is for the length of their stay in Australia until the expiry date on their visa.

Please be aware that this information is correct at time of writing, but may be subject to change. You can check the current status of any reciprocal health care agreement that you may be eligible for here on the Australian government website.

Overseas Visitors Health Cover vs Reciprocal Health Care Agreements

If you’re from a foreign country that doesn’t qualify for the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement, there is another option available to you, and it’s called Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC). There are two types – Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) and Working Visa Health Cover.

Several Australian insurers offer OVHC cover, which is specifically designed to cover foreign residents in Australia. Depending on your policy, this can include cover for:

  • Hospital accommodation
  • Partial cover for medical fees
  • Surgical fees for hospital admissions
  • Emergency ambulance and room cost
  • Cover for certain prescription pharmaceuticals
  • Cover for services such as dental or optical, depending on length and duration of stay

If you are looking for Overseas Student Health Cover, we have provided a comparison table below for you to check out that features policies available. Plase note that this table is formulated based on a 3 year study visa in NSW. You can try this tool out for yourself here.

Do I still need OVHC if I’m from a country with a reciprocal healthcare agreement?

No. Although it’s always recommended that you consider taking out travel insurance when it comes to travelling, but there is no requirement for visitors from RHCA countries to take out Overseas Visitors Health Cover.

However, there are several reasons why someone from a country with a reciprocal healthcare agreement might still choose to buy OVHC insurance as well. OVHC policies can cover items that are not covered by Medicare and therefore are not available to RHCA visitors without health insurance:

  • Ambulance transport (varies by state and territory)
  • Dental care
  • Elective treatment
  • Treatment and accommodation in hospital

For these reasons, it is always an option for someone from a country with a reciprocal healthcare agreement to take out OVHC during their stay in Australia:

Compare Working Visa Health Cover (OVHC)

Compare Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)

 

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