Moving houses can be stressful. But moving into a whole different country has to be overwhelming for many. In the process of moving internationally, many global citizens may forget the importance of private health insurance, or just not know where to start. This is why we’ve done the research for you: what you need to know about Australia’s healthcare system and how to apply for private health insurance in Australia.
Before looking into private health insurance in Australia, it is important to understand how Australia’s healthcare system works. Australia’s government healthcare can be divided into two – emergency and non-emergency. These two forms of healthcare are usually insured for all Australian citizens through Medicare.
The Australian government provides healthcare for urgent or emergency issues, which you can receive by visiting a local hospital emergency department or calling 000 for an ambulance.
Don’t need immediate treatment? Head over to a General Practitioner (GP) at your local clinic in Australia to receive medical treatment instead. Your GP can also then refer you to a specialist or other health services should you need them!
What is Medicare?
These emergency and non-emergency healthcare services are usually covered for Australians through Medicare, a universal health insurance scheme that guarantees residents access to health services at low or no cost. The government instilled the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) where foreigners are still able to receive Medicare benefits when living in Australia. The agreement covers 11 countries – Belgium, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Finland, Malta, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland and Sweden.
Treatments covered under Medicare include public hospital treatment, GP costs, referrals to a specialist doctor, medical tests and examinations and prescription medication that is subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
While Medicare covers a substantial amount of healthcare, it does not cover ambulance fees, private hospital fees, cosmetic procedures, dental treatment, Optometrist fees, physiotherapy and other therapy. This is why many still apply for private health insurance in Australia.
Private health insurance in Australia
Private health insurance policies cover the costs of private hospital fees, as well as other medical expenses such as dental, physiotherapy and other therapies. Even with Medicare, many citizens invest in private health insurance to cover expenses that Medicare excludes.
Without Medicare, you will also be charged for all hospital, ambulance and doctor fees, which can add up to a significant sum. This is why many people take out private health insurance in Australia, to assure themselves that any medical costs in the future will be covered. Something important to note for foreigners without Medicare is that health insurance is even a mandatory visa requirement.
To receive private health insurance, you must purchase a policy from a registered health insurer and pay regular fees to stay insured.
Benefits of private health insurance
Besides having more health services covered, investing in private health insurance can also bring you numerous other benefits.
With private health insurance, you have fewer taxes to pay – such as the Medicare Levy Surcharge. Australian taxpayers who do not have private hospital cover and earn above a certain income have to pay the Medicare Levy Surcharge, which can come up to 1.5 percent of your income.
The Australian government has also implemented Lifetime Health Cover, an initiative that prevents you from paying a high price for private health insurance. Just take out hospital cover before turning 31 years old to be eligible!
Private health insurance tiers
The Australian government has implemented four new tiers of hospital covers since 2020, to ensure a clearer distinction between private insurance policies. These will also give people greater certainty about the different services offered by each type of private hospital cover. All hospital insurance policies are classified as Gold, Silver, Bronze or Basic.
Keep in mind that Basic is the lowest priced health insurance in Australia, while Gold is the most expensive. Additional coverage in each tier is also available, known as Basic Plus (+), Bronze Plus (+) and Silver Plus (+) tiers.
Find out more about the hospital tiers here.
This is the lowest level of hospital cover that a health insurance company can offer. It covers treatment in rehabilitation, psychiatric services and palliative care. Additional optional healthcare policies can also be purchased under the Basic Plus (+) tier.
The next level is the Bronze tier, which covers all the services of Basic while including unrestricted cover for an additional 18 treatments. Similarly, the Bronze tier can be upgraded to include optional healthcare coverage under the Bronze Plus tier.
The Silver health insurance policy covers both Basic and Bronze policies, including unrestricted coverage for an additional eight more clinical categories. Silver Plus is also available for additional healthcare coverage.
Lastly, there is the Gold tier, which covers all the categories of Basic, Bronze and Silver and 9 additional clinical categories as well.
Best private health insurance companies
As the second biggest Australian health fund, Bupa health insurance has over 4 million members and provides good value for all tiers available. Bupa has industry experience, low out of pocket costs and also offers all tiers between Basic and Gold.
Short on cash? Apply at Medibank for affordable hospital policies. Medibank also has a 24/7 Medibank Nurse phone service and covers bi-annual dental check-ups. It also offers all tiers between Basic and Gold.
HCF is one of Australia’s largest registered private health fund and life insurance organisations. It covers not only health insurance but also supplies policies for travel insurance, life insurance and pet insurance.
nib supplies health coverage to over 1 million citizens, including international expats who are working and travelling overseas. It has a variety of healthcare coverage, such as unlimited ambulance coverage so that you can call 000 with no worries. It also gives its customers access to Gold hospital cover for 90 days after their accident.
HBF has one of Australia’s largest not-for-profit funds. It also has one of the cheapest Gold tier hospital policies available, at $165 per month. Tight on cash? HBF offers all tiers from Basic to Gold at an affordable and cheaper price.
Australian Unity covers a large number of health insurance categories including doctor and specialist fees, hospital fees, emergency ambulance and day surgery fees. It also offers all tiers available from Basic to Gold.
Established in the 1930s, GMHBA has been a not-for-profit private health insurance provider for over 80 years. It is also currently one of Australia’s leading regionally based private health insurers. GMHBA provides high-quality insurance between all Basic and Gold tiers.
Choosing your health insurance
With many plans and insurance companies available, choosing your health insurance in Australia can become a daunting task. With private health insurance in mind, there are many factors you should take into account before purchasing.
Some factors include, whether you have Medisave, your budget, what you need to be covered, as well as family size. Multiple websites also allow you to compare insurance policies and companies to get the best package for you.
You can use this website to start searching for your private health insurance and keep yourself protected.