Like New Zealand, Australia has both public and private healthcare systems. The public health services in Australia are provided by Medicare Australia, an Australian Government agency.
As a New Zealander living in Australia you are entitled to free emergency hospital care but generally must pay full price for all non-hospital treatment (medicines, doctor visits, etc) unless you hold a Medicare card. Being a New Zealand citizen residing in Australia qualifies you for enrolment in the Medicare program, so you will want to make sure you do this soon after arriving in Australia.
You can enrol in Medicare as soon as you have the supporting documents (see How to Apply below) - most people will be able to get these together within the first 2-3 weeks after arriving.
Make sure you enrol in Medicare in the first six months after you arrive in Australia.
See this page of the Medicare Australia site for the latest information on the eligibility requirements for the Medicare scheme.
Medicare covers all or some of the following costs:
Medicare doesn’t cover:
You can read the full list of what Medicare covers here.
What you pay to see a doctor in Australia varies depending on whether the doctor bulk bills or not. When you visit a doctor that bulk bills, Medicare will cover the full cost and you won’t need to pay anything. (In our experience bulk bill GP surgeries are generally very hectic for this reason!).
Other doctors don’t bulk bill, meaning you have to pay either the full cost up front (and the Medicare-covered portion will be refunded back to you usually overnight) or you will have to pay the difference between what the doctor charges and Medicare covers.
During 2022-2023 we’ve paid approx $90 upfront for a non-bulk bill GP appointment and received approx $41 back from Medicare.
Applying for Medicare is pretty straightforward as long as you have the required documents. When we moved to Australia we had to apply for Medicare in person and join a long queue, but now you can either post or email your form.
You will need:
Two documents proving you live in Australia, for example, proof of school enrollment, a utilities letter or bill or purchase or lease agreement. You can find a full list of accepted documents here
A completed Medicare application form
You can then post or email your completed application form and documents.
It’s a good idea to keep your Medicare Card with you at all times. Aside from using it to access health services, it can also serve as useful supporting identification.
When you first visit a doctor in Australia, they will ask you to fill out a form with your contact details, any important medical history and allergies, and provide your Medicare number.
Your doctor will then submit your Medicare claim for you following an appointment, so there is usually nothing more you have to do to receive it.
Although Medicare ensures you have access to free hospital care at public hospitals and free or subsidised doctor and specialist visits, the Australian Government also strongly encourages getting private healthcare insurance.
About 55% of Australians take out private health insurance and there are 3 major reasons why:
To cover ambulance use in emergencies.
Unlike New Zealand, ambulance services in most Australian states are not covered by public healthcare and without health insurance, the cost of using one can run into the thousands of dollars. The exception is Queensland, which does provide a free ambulance service to the lucky (or unlucky!) residents who need it.
For dental care.
Dental care is not subsidised by Medicare, except in situations when a dental problem is affecting overall health.
Financial incentives from the Australian Government.
This includes an (up to) 24.6% rebate on insurance premiums and an additional 1.5% tax levy on high income earners who don’t take out insurance. And to encourage you to get hospital cover at a young age, health insurers charge an additional 2% loading on top of your premium for every year you are aged over 30.
Many people just have ambulance/hospital cover, while people with specific needs or a family may want to get some extras.
There are lots of different health insurance providers offering various packages and choosing between them can get a bit overwhelming. We recommend using comparison sites like iSelect to help find the best package for you.
Canstar recently announced their 2023 awards for the best value health insurance and HCF came out on top.
If you are currently seeing a specialist in New Zealand, ask them for a referral to a specialist in Australia before you leave.
Alternatively you can visit a GP on arrival and ask for a referral.
Medicare helps with the following costs associated with pregnancy and having a baby in Australia:
Find out more about Medicare cover on conception, pregnancy and birth.
Luckily things have gotten a little better for Kiwis in Australia with disabilities and alongside Medicare subsidies you can now access the NDIS (provided you meet the other eligibility requirements). Read more about the disability support pension.
Carers can also access the Carer Payment, again, as long as you the person you are caring for meet the other eligibility requirements