Setting Up Reciprocal Health Care

Australia has agreements in place with several countries that allows their citizens to be covered medically when they travel abroad to the member countries. These agreements are reciprocal so anyone who comes from New Zealand, Britain, Ireland, Sweden, The Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Belgium, Malta or Norway are covered when they are in Australia.

The reciprocal health care agreement covers citizens of these countries for the duration of their approved visit in Australia for medically necessary treatment only. This means any ill-health or injury that has occurred while you were in Australia that requires treatment before you are able or planning to return home. You are entitled to free treatment in a public hospital as an in-patient or out-patient, subsidized medicine, and Medicare benefits for out-of-hospital treatment in private surgeries and health centers.

To enroll in the program you will need to visit a Medicare office anywhere in Australia with your passport and a valid visa. Citizens of some countries will also need to provide proof of enrollment in their own country's national health scheme. The Sydney Medicare office is located at 135 King Street and itís open Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 5pm. Once you are accepted into the program you will be sent an Australian reciprocal health care card in the mail. If you have received treatment before enrolling in the program you will be reimbursed once you do enroll.

If you have dual citizenship to one country that is part of the reciprocal health care agreement and one that isnít, you will need to enter Australia with the passport of the member country in order to be covered. I hold a Canadian and a British passport but because I entered Australia on my Canadian passport, I wasn't able to receive Medicaid as a British citizen.

When receiving treatment either in a hospital, doctor's surgery, or a health center, you will be asked to show your reciprocal health care card. You will not have to make any payment for all treatments that are covered under Medicare. Medicare will not cover medicines that are not subsidized, dental work, treatment arranged before you visit Australia, or accommodation and treatment in a private hospital or as a private patient in a public hospital.

The reciprocal health care coverage does not replace travel insurance and it is still strongly recommended that people take out an insurance policy. Medicare doesn't cover emergency evacuations back to your home country, the loss of property, liability or any of the major things covered by travel insurance.

The reciprocal health care agreement does, however, take some of the hassle out of dealing with doctors and hospitals in Australia. If you are able to be a part of this program it means you will be treated as a citizen and won't have to worry about the paperwork and headaches involved that come when you are treated overseas for medical problems as a foreigner. In short, if you are able to get it, you should.

For more information on the Australian reciprocal health care program email medicare@medicareaustralia.gov.au or visit Medicare Australia.

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