What Australian Healthcare Options are Available for Migrants

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January 11, 2024

Migrating to a new country can be a thrilling adventure, but it often comes with a host of concerns, including the need for healthcare. Australia has one of the world’s most comprehensive and well-structured healthcare systems, which is largely funded by the government. The system is designed to provide affordable and accessible healthcare services to residents and eligible migrants. It is important to clarify that Australian healthcare is a shared responsibility across state and federal governments and its services are provided by a mixture of public and private providers. If you meet all the health requirements for an Australian visa, the next step is to understand what healthcare options are available to you.  To help you prepare for your journey, we have put together a comprehensive guide on what healthcare services are available for individuals migrating to Australia

Medicare: A Pillar of Australian Healthcare

At the core of Australia’s healthcare system is Medicare, a publicly funded universal healthcare scheme. Medicare provides a range of essential services to eligible individuals, which include:

  • Doctor’s Visits: Medicare covers a significant portion of the costs when you visit a general practitioner (GP) or specialist.
  • Hospital Care: Public hospital services are funded by Medicare, so you can receive free treatment as a public patient.
  • Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS): Medicare subsidises prescription medications, making them more affordable.
  • Pathology and Imaging Services: Certain diagnostic tests and scans are partially or fully covered by Medicare.
  • Allied Health Services: Some allied health services like physiotherapy and psychology are eligible for Medicare rebates with a referral from a GP.

Who is Eligible for Medicare?

Eligibility for Medicare in Australia extends to:

  • Australian Citizens: If you’re an Australian citizen, you are automatically eligible for Medicare.
  • Permanent Residents: As a permanent resident, you also qualify for Medicare benefits. This is why obtaining permanent residency is so important to many.
  • New Zealand Citizens: Some New Zealand citizens may be eligible for Medicare.
  • Migrant Workers: Eligibility for migrant workers varies based on their visa type and country of origin. For example, temporary visa holders may have limited access to Medicare or none at all.
  • Visa Holders from Reciprocal Countries: Australia has reciprocal healthcare agreements with certain countries. Citizens from these nations may have limited access to Medicare services while visiting Australia.

Reciprocal Healthcare Agreements

Australia has reciprocal healthcare agreements with several countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, and more. These agreements allow eligible visitors from these nations to access limited Medicare services during their stay in Australia. However, the coverage is often restricted to medically necessary treatments and does not cover non-urgent or elective services.

Private Health Insurance

While Medicare covers a significant portion of essential healthcare services, it does not include all medical expenses. This is where private health insurance comes into play. Many Australians and migrants choose to purchase private health insurance to access a wider range of services and enjoy additional benefits. Private health insurance can cover:

  • Hospital Care: Private health insurance offers greater flexibility in choosing your doctor, hospital, and treatment options. It may cover private hospital care, elective surgeries, and specialist consultations.
  • Extras or Ancillary Services: These include services like dental care, optical care, physiotherapy, and alternative therapies.
  • Ambulance Services: Ambulance coverage is not included in Medicare, but you can obtain it through private health insurance.
  • Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) and Overseas Visitor Health Cover (OVHC): International students and visitors on specific visa types are required to have OSHC or OVHC, respectively. These policies cover basic medical services.

The Importance of Student Health Cover (OSHC) and Overseas Visitor Health Cover (OVHC)

If you’re planning to migrate to Australia on a temporary visa, obtaining Overseas Visitor Health Cover (OVHC) is a crucial step. OVHC is a visa requirement for many temporary visa holders, including 457 and 482 visa holders, student visa holders, and more. OVHC provides coverage for essential medical services, including doctor’s visits and hospital care. It also ensures that you are not caught off guard by unexpected medical expenses during your stay in Australia. There can be some variations in OSHC plans, but they all must provide:

  • Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) fee for out-of-hospital medical services
  • MBS fee for in-patient services.
  • Some prosthetic devices.
  • Public hospital accommodation.
  • Day surgery accommodation.
  • Ambulance services.
  • Pharmaceutical benefits up to $50 per pharmaceutical item to a maximum of $300 a year for a single membership.

Navigating the Healthcare System

Understanding and navigating the Australian healthcare system can be challenging, especially for newcomers. Here are some tips to make the process smoother:

  • Research Your Visa Type: Different visa types come with varying healthcare entitlements. Research and understand what services you are eligible for based on your visa category.
  • Get Health Insurance: If your visa type requires it, obtain the necessary health insurance coverage. This will ensure you have access to the healthcare services you need.
  • Choose a Local GP: Finding a local general practitioner (GP) is a crucial step in managing your healthcare. Your GP can provide referrals to specialists, if needed, and guide you through the healthcare system.
  • Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date with changes in the healthcare system and your visa requirements. Government websites and healthcare providers are valuable sources of information.
  • Trust AustraliaMigrate: Navigating the complexities of visas and healthcare in Australia can be overwhelming. Our migration service specialises in helping newcomers understand their visa options, requirements, and healthcare entitlements. We are here to guide you through the process and ensure that your journey to Australia is as smooth as possible.


Australia offers a robust healthcare system with Medicare at its centre, providing essential services to residents and eligible migrants. Private health insurance complements Medicare, offering a wider range of services and additional benefits. Understanding your eligibility, visa requirements, and the healthcare system is essential for a successful transition. Don’t hesitate to contact AustraliaMigrate for experts who can help you navigate this exciting, yet complex journey. Remember, healthcare in Australia is a top priority, and with the right guidance, you can ensure a healthy and enjoyable life in Australia.


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