Rising costs of Australian healthcare spell problems for expats

Published:  10 Aug at 6 PM
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Australia’s healthcare provisions are known to be of exceptional standard, but the ever-rising costs of treatment are a cause for concern in the country’s expat community.

The Australian healthcare system is a hybrid of public and private hospitals and clinics, seen as a cross between the USA’s expensive and fully privatised system and the British National Health Service. All residents have access to what’s on offer, but expats cannot take advantage of the various free services and must pay for everything, leaving them unable to access high quality medical care unless they are insured for every bill from GP level through hospital treatment to surgery and recovery.

Expats from the UK, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, Malta, Italy, Finland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium can take advantage of free in and out-patient treatment in public hospitals due to the Australian government’s reciprocal healthcare agreements. Also covered are GP and community healthcare centre medical treatments, and drug costs are subsidised. However, health insurance or a healthy bank account is necessary if top-notch private surgery, diagnostics and treatments are an essential part of recovery.

Expats entering the country on a work permit are required by law to purchase private health insurance before a visa is granted, even if they are citizens of the ten countries listed above. On arrival, working expats need to sign up to Medicare before requesting an exemption from the DIAC. Unfortunately, Australian private health insurance is one of the most expensive in the world, costing on average £285 every month even although private hospitals don’t have emergency rooms.

The Medicare system gives access to coverage for all treatments in public hospitals as well as around 80 per cent of consultation fees from GP to specialist level. Even so, over the last few years, many expat retirees have been forced to return home as they’re no longer able to afford soaring healthcare costs. Others with pensions from overseas and private health insurance who’ve been in the country for over 10 years are attempting to gain permanent residency in order to qualify for Medicare coverage.
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