Health insurance in Australia

Health insurance in Australia

If you’re thinking of moving to Australia, we’re not surprised. A combination of great weather, diverse cities and picturesque landscapes make Australia one of the most sought after places to live on earth. Whether you’re an international student or a migrant worker, you’ll need medical cover in the event of an emergency. Continue reading to find out how to get health insurance in Australia.

How to get health insurance in Australia

Relocating to Australia often comes with a long list of ‘to dos’, including understanding the cost of living in Australia and opening an Australian bank account

Thankfully, Australia’s public healthcare system is relatively easy to understand. That’s because Medicare, Australia’s public health service, is available to everyone legally resident in the country. So whether you were born in Australia or have emigrated to the country, you automatically have access to public healthcare.

Medicare is financed in part by a two per cent tax on residents’ income (known as the Medicare levy) and includes access to general practitioners (GPs) and public hospitals.

Although everyone has access to Medicare, the government offers incentives to those who also take out private health insurance. 

Private health insurance in Australia

To reduce pressure on the public health service, the government offers lower income tax to those with private medical insurance. As a result, around half the Australian population has private health insurance. 

Other reasons why private healthcare is popular amongst Australians include: 

  • Avoiding waiting times for elective treatments like surgery.
  • Choosing their own specialists or hospitals.
  • Having the option of a private room.
  • Accessing better food or modern facilities.

If you don’t have private health insurance in Australia, you pay more income tax and a Medicare levy surcharge.

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What is the Medicare levy surcharge?

The Medicare levy surcharge (MLS) is a fee imposed on Australians who earn over $90,000 each financial year but don’t have private health insurance. 

The surcharge is intended to ease pressure on the public health system by encouraging high-income earners to take out private hospital cover.

You may incur a surcharge of 1%, 1.25% or 1.5%, depending on your income. 

You’ll be subject to the MLS for any period during a financial year that you don’t hold suitable private hospital cover.

What’s the difference between the Medicare levy and the Medicare levy surcharge?

While the Medicare levy surcharge applies to those who earn over $90,000 without private hospital cover, the Medicare levy is something most taxpayers pay regardless of whether they have private health insurance. 

For example, if you earn $80,000 per year, you won’t have to pay the surcharge.

Bear in mind that if your income is over the threshold and you don’t have private health insurance, you’ll pay both the Medicare levy and the surcharge.
Like the Medicare levy surcharge, you pay the Medicare levy when you file your tax returns. If your taxable income is less than $22,398 (or $35,418 if you’re entitled to the Seniors and Pensioners tax offset), you may be exempt from the Medicare levy.

Health insurance in Australia for foreigners

Whether it’s to work, study or simply enjoy retirement, Australia attracts people from all over the world. Some of the largest student and expat communities in Australia include people from the UK, Vietnam, China, Thailand and Nigeria

If you move to Australia and become a permanent resident there, you’ll have access to Medicare by paying the Medicare levy on your income. You’ll also have the option of taking out private medical cover and reducing your Medicare levy

However, if you’re a student or visiting Australia as a tourist, you won’t have to pay the Medicare levy for medical treatment if you’re from:

That’s because these countries have a Reciprocal Health Agreement with Australia, giving you access to most hospitals and GPs in the country. 

Does Medicare cover international students?

Yes, but only if you’re from a country with a Reciprocal Health Agreement with Australia. 

It will be a condition of your visa for all other international students that you have Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) for the duration of your stay. 

You can apply for OSHC during your visa application from providers such as Bupa, Allianz and Medibank

OSHC allows international students to access health care without experiencing financial hardship.