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Healthcare in Australia

Before visiting Australia, it is important to understand how the Australian healthcare system works and what it means for you when applying for your visa. On selected visas, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) may require you to purchase and maintain adequate health insurance for the duration of your stay in Australia.

That’s where Bupa can help - we offer a range of overseas visitor covers that help you meet your visa requirements and give you greater control in choosing where you are treated and who treats you.

The healthcare system in Australia is made up of two components:

  1. Medicare
  2. Private health insurance

Here is an explanation of how it works:


Medicare is Australia’s public healthcare system. It provides free or subsidised cover for certain healthcare costs to all Australian citizens and permanent residents.

If you’re on temporary visa, you may not be eligible for Medicare unless you’re from a country with a Reciprocal Healthcare Agreement (RHCA) with Australia. Even if you are eligible for Medicare under a RHCA with your home country, you’ll only be covered for treatment that is medically essential. This includes treatment for any ill-health or injury which occurs while you’re in Australia and requires treatment before you return home. It will not cover treatment in a private hospital and you may not be able to choose your own doctor in hospital.

The level of Medicare cover and the period for which you receive it will vary, depending on which country you are from. To find out if you have access to Medicare and what level and period of cover you are eligible for refer to Medicare's website.

Countries with RHCAs 

The Australian Government has signed RHCAs allowing people from the following countries some access to Medicare:

  • Belgium
  • Finland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom

Australian Government Rebate on private health insurance

The Australian Government Rebate on private health insurance (the ‘rebate’) is an initiative whereby the Government may contribute to a percentage of the cost of a member’s private health insurance, depending on their income.
Find out more about the rebate for overseas visitors

Medicare Levy Surcharge

The Medicare Levy Surcharge (MLS) is an additional tax on top of the Medicare Levy that is payable by Australian taxpayers who do not have an appropriate level of private patient hospital cover and earn above an income threshold. Reciprocal Health Cover is an additional cover option that can be purchased by overseas visitors to help eliminate the Medicare Levy Surcharge.

The MLS is only applicable if you have a working visa and:

  • are covered under a Reciprocal Healthcare Agreement (RHCA) with Australia and are eligible for a Reciprocal Medicare Card; and
  • earn more than $90,000 as a single person or $180,000 a year as a couple/family*; and
  • don’t have private hospital visitors cover in combination with Reciprocal Health Cover.

To view the detailed table on the Medicare Levy Surcharge thresholds, please see ‘What rebate am I entitled to and how much MLS will I have to pay?’

* Thresholds are effective 1 July 2014 and are indexed annually. On a family membership this increases by $1,500 per child after the first. The family thresholds also apply to single parent families and couples including de facto couples.

For more information, visit or speak to your tax adviser.

Lifetime Health Cover loading

If you become eligible for Medicare as a permanent resident, you must take out an appropriate level of private hospital cover for Australian residents within 12 months of qualifying for Medicare to avoid Lifetime Health Cover (LHC) loading.

LHC is an Australian Government initiative that came into effect on 1 July 2000 to encourage Australians to take out private hospital cover earlier in life and to maintain their cover. It’s only applicable to Australian citizens and residents with hospital cover.

For more information, get in touch with us on 134 135 (from within Australia) or 61 3 9487 6400 (from outside Australia).