“Australia” –hearing the word, many images already come to mind. From kangaroos and koalas, sleepless metropolises, the Aboriginals, bewitching desserts, to awe-striking beaches, there are many reasons why one dreams to be part of this wonderland.
If you’re one among the many non-Australians who long to migrate in this country, it’s only essential to know a few details about the place – especially the healthcare in Australia. This way, you can easily adapt, make informed choices, and measure the pros and cons of living in the world’s sixth-largest country.
To start, here are a few things you should know:
Australian Healthcare System
It is no exaggeration that Australian healthcare system is among the best in the world.
In fact, in a study conducted by researchers on 2017, the country has been ranked to be the second best in the world, following United Kingdom. From providing an accessible public health system to ensuring a quality and affordable healthcare, it is no denying that this country has stood as one of the world’s healthcare leaders.
In general, the country’s health system is defined to be a hybrid model. This means people can access both private and public insurance coverage for their healthcare needs.
Let’s explore how these systems work.
Public Health Insurance
Australia’s mandatory public insurance scheme is called Medicare.
Under the said program, citizens from Australia and New Zealand, permanent residents of Australia, and people from countries with reciprocal healthcare coverage agreement can avail a broad range of health services at low to no cost.
This includes free treatment as a patient in a public hospital and reduced costs for out-of-hospital care. [Back to Top]
Public Health Levy
As a public health insurance, Medicare is funded through tax, particularly via the Medicare levy. Under the said arrangements, working Australians pay a 2%of their taxable income.
On the other hand, high income earners who receive above AU$90,000 salary and has no private health insurance cover will have to pay the Medicare Levy Surcharge (MLS), which requires an additional 1% to 1.5% of their taxable income. [Back to Top]
However, on the downside, since Medicare performs as Australia’s universal health care scheme and is mainly funded by tax, the program does not cover everything –including ambulance services, private patient hospital costs, medical and hospital costs incurred overseas, most dental examinations and treatment, glasses and contact lenses, and many more.
Due to this, many Australians are pushed to still avail private health insurance to experience and access a wider range of healthcare options. [Back to Top]
Private Health Insurance
As opposed to Medicare, Australia’s private health system isn’t owned and managed by government agencies. This means people need to buy the insurance through private health insurance companies or agents.
Private Health Coverage
Under the said program, people can avail three kinds of cover.
- Hospital cover as a private patient
- Ambulance cover
- General (or Extras) cover – which includes dental, optical, psychological, and other non-medical health services not covered by Medicare
Private Health Insurance Incentives
Unlike Medicare, private health insurance is not mandatory.
People are also free to choose to be treated as a public patient in a public hospital if they want to, even if they already have private health insurance.
However, in order to encourage people to still avail private health insurance, the Australian government had introduced the following surcharges & incentives.
Private Health Coverage
The Private Health Insurance Rebate is a government-initiated program that aims to reduce the premium cost of private healthcare. Under the said program, the Australian government provides a financial contribution to lower cost of private health insurance premiums.
In order to claim the program, you must meet the following criteria:
- have a Complying health insurance policy with an Australian-registered health insurer
- be eligible for Medicare
- be a Private health insurance incentive beneficiary
- have an income for surcharge purposes that is less than the Tier 3 income threshold.
The Age-based discount is another incentive led by the Australian government to encourage people to avail private health insurance. As part of the arrangement, Australians aged 18-29 can avail discounts of up to 10 per cent of their private hospital insurance premiums. Eligible Australians will be able to retain the discount rate until they turn 41, so long as they remain on the same policy. These discounts will then be gradually phased out after they reach the age of 41. [Back to Top]
Lifetime Health Cover (LHC)
Lifetime Health Cover (LHC) is a program initiated by the government that aims to encourage young people to take out hospital insurance earlier in life and maintain it.
Under the said program, people must be able to purchase a hospital cover before the 1st of July following their 31st birthdays. If they are able to maintain the cover, they will be exempted from paying the 2% annual loading. [Back to Top]
GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS AND ELIGIBILITY
Aside from the previously discussed surcharges & incentives in support for the private healthcare sector, the Australian government also offers a few healthcare programs that are accessible for both public and private healthcare insurance holders.
To give you a wider range of options, here are other government-led programs to add on your healthcare checklist:
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is a program of the Australian Government that provides affordable and necessary medicines by subsidising a list of medicines. To date, there are over 5, 000 products under PBS, including generic, biologic, and biosimilar medicines.
In order to access the program, you must be an Australian resident who hold a current Medicare card. People who come from countries with Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia are also eligible for the program. This includes UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Malta, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, and Finland.
Applicants are also required to show their Medicare card, DVA numbers (for veterans), or passports (for overseas visitors). [Back to Top]
National Immunisation Program (NIP)
The National Immunisation Program is a service set up by the Commonwealth and state and territory governments that provides free vaccines to eligible people in Australia. The NIP is designed to protect the population from vaccine-preventable diseases. This include childhood vaccination, adolescent vaccination, adult vaccination, and flu (influenza) vaccines
The eligibility requirement for NIP is the same with Medicare. [Back to Top]
Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS)
MBS lists a wide range of services subsidised by the Australian Government. This includes consultations, diagnostic tests, and operations. As part of its program, the MBS has a safety net, which can help lower your out of pocket medical costs for out of hospital services.
In order to register for MBS, you only need to be enrolled in Medicare. If you’re an individual with no dependents, the government will automatically register your name under the program. However, if you’re part of a family or couple, you can register as a family to combine your costs. [Back to Top]
National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP)
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) is a government-initiated program that aims to help the population detect bowel cancer early. Under the said program, the Australian government provides free bowel cancer screening tests to eligible people between the ages of 50 and 74 years.
In order to apply, you must have a Medicare Entitlement, must be able to present a current Medicare card or a DVA number, have a mailing address in Australia, not a conditional migrant, not a temporary resident, not a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement recipient, and must be aged 50 to 74. [Back to Top]
TYPES OF HOSPITALS
Just like other health systems, healthcare in Australia presents two different types of hospitals: the public and the private. In 2013–2014, a total of 1,359 hospitals were recorded across the country, with 747 being public and 612 being private.
Australian Public Hospitals
Public hospitals are funded and managed by the state. Compared to private, these hospitals are more widely accessible to the public and provide quality medical care with low or free of charge.
Given their superior number and facilities, public hospitals stand as the first choice for patients in times of emergencies or acute health issues.
In fact, in a report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a total of 5.7 million hospitalized patients have been recorded for the year 2009-2010 – a number that is relatively bigger than private hospitals, which only has 4.0 million hospitalized patients.
However, on the downside, public hospitals require longer waiting periods for patients when compared to private.
There are two different types of public hospitals.
Public Psychiatric Hospitals
While the first one focuses on helping patients with acute health issues, the second one focuses on helping people with psychiatric, mental, or behavioural disorders.
Although some public psychiatric hospitals may provide short-term care, most types are focused on providing temporary and permanent care for patients with psychological disorder. [Back to Top]
Public Acute Hospitals
Bearing the word “acute,” this type of hospitals provide care for acute health issues. This involves active but short-term medical, surgical or obstetric services treatment methods to prevent an illness or injury from becoming worse. The most common examples include diagnosing a condition, relieving symptoms, managing labour, and many more. [Back to Top]
As opposed to public hospitals, private hospitals are owned and ran by private and licensed for-profit and non-profit organisations.
In most cases, people choose private hospitals over public ones to experience shorter waiting time and being able to choose their own doctors and rooms. Since private facilities welcome fewer patients, medical professionals are able to accommodate each patient faster.
Just like public, private hospitals can be divided into two categories.
Private free-standing ‘day’ facilities:
This refers to centres or facilities that provide diagnosis and treatment for acute conditions on a day-only basis. This means the treatment needed by the patient can be undertaken in a single day and will not require an overnight stay.
[Back to Top]
Other private hospitals
These are the types of hospitals that provide long-term or short-term treatments,
such as surgery or rehabilitation. Some also have emergency departments to
provide patients with emergency care.
Knowing what health-related fees you should expect when living in Australia will help you in the long-run. Not only will this allow you to be prepared in times of emergencies, but it will also enable you to easily adjust to the needs of your new environment.
To give you a brief background, here are a few determining factors that could dictate your overall healthcare expenses.
Check them out.
Medical costs refer to any fee charged by a medical specialist in exchange for the medical care they have provided for your treatment.
Here are the a few of most common types of medical specialists you are likely see:
- Cardiologists – these are doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the cardiovascular system.
- Dermatologists – these are medical experts who specialize in problems concerning the skin.
- Surgeons – these refer to medical experts who perform surgical operations.
- Gastroenterologists – these are medical professionals who focus on the digestive system and its disorders.
- Anaesthesiologists – these refer to medical experts specializing in anaesthetics.
This focuses on your prescribed medication cost. Under this type, you can check on the pharmaceuticals listed on the Australian Government’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Schedule (PBS) to see cheaper medical alternatives. [Back to Top]
Prostheses costs refer to the fees that come with surgically implanted prosthetics, artificial hips or pacemakers. This usually costs hundreds of dollars. Doctors will need to implant an artificial device to replace a missing body part, which may be lost through an accident, a disease, or birth defects. [Back to Top]
This refers to fees required during your whole stay in the hospital. This usually considers the type of bed you used, the type of room, food servings, and other hospital-related services. [Back to Top]
Living in Australia could be the ultimate dream-come-true. From its breathtaking natural wonders, rich history, diverse culture, to quality healthcare, nearly anyone would surely fancy living in this world-renowned country.
Were you impressed about the details shared above? We bet you are.
Want to know more about the ins and outs of Australia’s healthcare system? Don’t hesitate to visit the country’s Department of Health website today.