When planning on relocating to a new country, it is important to ensure that every aspect of your life is secure. Hence, understanding the healthcare system of your prospective new home is incredibly essential.

Lucky for those thinking of moving to Australia, its healthcare system has recently been ranked amongst the best in the world. It is a unique blend of public and private funding, which delivers an incredibly affordable and efficient system to its citizens.


Medicare is a form of public healthcare that is paid through tax, with eligible individuals funding the public system by paying 2% of their income to the Medicare Levy.

The Medicare system allows patients to be treated at public hospitals at no charge at all. Patients will also be reimbursed entirely for general practitioner fees and 85% of specialist fees. To do this, patients would need to file a Medicare claim. However, if bulk billing— a system where Medicare is billed directly— is used at a clinic, patients would not need to go through this step.

Further, under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, a large percentage of the price of prescription medication will also be discounted. However, individuals would need to present their Medicare card in order to obtain this benefit.

To qualify for medicare, you must either be a citizen or a permanent resident from New Zealand or Australia. However, expats who come from a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement country may also qualify for Medicare, provided that they meet certain criteria.

Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA)

The Reciprocal Health Care Agreement covers the cost of essential medical treatments for expats from certain countries. Under a RHCA membership, individuals would be entitled to care that Medicare covers, as well as care for illness or injuries that need immediate attention.

Citizens from the following countries qualify for a Reciprocal Health Agreement:

Eligible expats who wish to apply for Medicare should do so within a week of arriving in Australia. Documents required to do so include their passport, travel documents and their permanent visa.

Compulsory private health insurance for expats

Unfortunately, as an expat, many will not qualify for the public healthcare afforded by the government. Hence, it is imperative that you obtain private health insurance in order to be granted a visa. This clause is inclusive even of individuals who come from RHCA countries.

It is imperative for those applying to know that many insurance companies impose a 12 month waiting period on their members. This is done to ensure that individuals do not cancel their membership immediately after making a large claim for any pre-existing conditions. Hence, this waiting period may need to be factored in when planning to get your Australian health insurance.

Different private health insurance schemes would be available to you, depending on the types of coverage you deem to be necessary. Sites like iSelect and finder.com.au are helpful in providing you with a comprehensive list of health insurance schemes that would be able to best suit your needs and budget.

Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)

The OSHC is compulsory for international students studying in Australia. This insurance ensures that students would be able to meet the cost of their medical and hospital bills accumulated throughout their time abroad.

Under the OSHC, the cost of hospital and medical treatment is subsidised. Limited benefits for pharmaceuticals also apply, with students able to claim a maximum of $300/ year for pharmaceuticals under a single OSHC membership.

Currently, the five health funds that provide OSHC for international student are:


This article is part of the “Essential Guide to Moving to Australia” series. More articles in the series: