Key Points

Like New Zealand, Australia has both public and private health care systems. The public health services in Australia are provided by Medicare Australia, an Australian Government agency.

Public Health Care

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.

Even if you don't apply for Medicare until after you have been in Australia for a while, you are entitled to retrospectively claim a wide variety of medical expenses incurred since you arrived in Australia, so long as they fall under the Medicare umbrella.

See this page of the Medicare Australia site for the latest information on the eligibility requirements for the Medicare scheme.

What Does Medicare Cover?

Medicare covers all or some of the following costs:

You can read the full list of what Medicare covers here.

How to Apply for Medicare

Applying for Medicare isn’t difficult as long as you can provide:

You also need to bring any two of the following documents:

When we applied, we took along our new lease and the transit document for our shipped goods. There are quite a few Medicare offices in each state, so you shouldn’t find it too difficult to locate one reasonably close to you. Find your nearest Medicare office.

If you can, we recommend going along to apply for your Medicare card during the week, as weekends are very busy and can mean a long wait. But once you do get to the front of the queue, it doesn’t take long for a staff member to check and approve your application. You will be given a temporary Medicare card until your real one(s) arrive in the mail, usually within a week.

Using Your Medicare Card

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.

Until recently the usual way to claim your rebate was by manually filling out a Medicare claim form and posting or dropping it off to Medicare along with your receipts. Medicare then processed your claim and put the money into your bank account or sent a cheque.

These days you can register for EasyClaim, meaning you get your rebate almost instantly into your nominated bank account after paying your doctor.

Private Health Insurance

Although Medicare ensures you have access 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 50% of Australians take out private health insurance and there are 3 major reasons why:

  1. 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.

  2. For dental care.
    Dental care is not subsidised by Medicare, except in situations when a dental problem is affecting overall health.

  3. Financial incentives from the Australian Government.
    This includes a 30% rebate on insurance premiums and an additional 1% 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 did a survey on the best value health insurance and awarded HCF, Bupa and Medibank Private the top places for outstanding value.

Finding Specialists In Australia

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.

Having A Baby And Raising A Family In Australia

New Zealanders are entitled to all Family Assistance payments in Australia, including:

Visit the Family Assistance site for more information.

Disability And Carer Payments

Unfortunately disability and carer payments are not currently available to New Zealand citizens living in Australia...despite that fact that any New Zealand citizen working in Australia has to pay into the disability benefits scheme. This also means you can’t get a Health Care Card or a Carer’s Card (for business discounts) as these are based on the Carer’s Allowance.

If you have a child with a disability, some Kiwis have told us that New Zealand citizens may also find it difficult to access Early Intervention Services in Australia.

You can learn more here.

Still have questions about health care in Australia? Check out our discussion forum where you can ask questions that can be answered by us and other readers.