An expat guide to healthcare and health insurance in Australia

Are you researching an expat health insurance for Australia? It is important to find out about the local healthcare system first.

Whether you are moving to Australia or you are already living there as an expat, read our guide on the Australian healthcare system and your different options of medical insurance for Australia.

Health Statistics

  • Total Population (2016) : 24,126,000
  • Gross national income per capita (PPP international $, 2013) : 42,540
  • Life expectancy at birth m/f (years, /2016): 81/85
  • Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years m/f (per 1 000 population, 2016): 77/45
  • Total expenditure on health per capita (Intl $, 2014): 4,357
  • Total expenditure on health as % of GDP (2014): 9.4
Healthcare in Australia for expats

The Australian healthcare system is of high quality, as is evident from the long life expectancy in this country. The quality of care is good in the private sector as well as in the public sector. There are numerous and easily accessible medical facilities throughout the country. Each city has walk-in clinics where it’s possible to receive treatment without prior appointment.


The Australian healthcare system is called Medicare. Australian citizens and permanent residents can enrol in Medicare. Medicare gives free or highly subsidised access to health care facilities. The Australian health system is partly funded by Australian tax payers who pay a “Medicare levy” of 2% of their income.

If you are on a temporary visa, you may be eligible for Medicare too. Click here to find out more.

As an incentive for the population to sign up for a Medicare approved insurance, people can claim a tax rebate every year matching the type of insurance they have.

People who don’t have an appropriate level of cover for hospital care and earn above a certain income (90,000 Australian dollars for single people and $180,000 for couples and families), must pay a Medicare levy surcharge, which equates 1 to 1.5% of their taxable income.

The Medicare levy surcharge is designed to encourage Australians and residents to apply for private health insurance, and reduce the pressure on the Australian public healthcare system.

All info on Medicare and tax can be found here: 

Medicare does not cover:

– Ambulance services,
– Private patient hospital cost,
– Medical and hospital costs outside Australia,
– Medical and hospital services deemed not necessary, which includes most dental services, glasses, contact lenses and hearing aids and cosmetic surgery,
– Consultations with the doctor of one’s choice.

Around 30% of the Australian population has signed up for a private medical insurance in order to have a wider coverage than that offered by Medicare.

I’m a foreigner: should I sign up for health insurance in Australia?

Your type of visa determines whether you must register or not for compulsory health insurance before entering the Australian territory. You need to check the conditions of your visa. However, even in the situation where you are not obliged to take out insurance, it is still strongly recommended because of the high medical costs in this country.

There are two typical cases:

– If you are a permanent resident, you must register for Medicare. Signing up for a private medical insurance on top is optional.
– If you haven’t been a permanent resident in Australia for the past two years (tourist, student, on a working holiday visa…), you are not eligible for Medicare and you will have to sign up for private medical insurance.

Healthcare agreement between Australia and 11 countries:

People from 11 countries that have a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Australia are entitled to limited subsidised health services in Australia with Medicare. The countries are: New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Belgium, Malta, Slovenia and Norway. Students from Norway, Finland, Malta and Ireland can’t access Medicare. The access to Medicare is only for medically necessary treatment while visiting Australia and the agreement won’t cover pre-existing conditions or non-urgent treatment.

It’s therefore important to sign up for a private health insurance in order to cover the medical costs that Medicare won’t cover.
On certain types of visa (for example 457 for temporary workers and 485 for students lengthening their stay in Australia), you are obliged to subscribe to a private medical insurance with a certain level of cover decided by the Australian authorities. This health insurance policy can be local or international, but regardless of the type of insurance that you choose, you must make sure it complies with local requirements.

International health insurance for expats in Australia

If you are a permanent resident in Australia you can either register with Medicare or a private health insurance registered with Medicare.

If your private health insurance provider is an overseas provider that is not registered in Australia, you will not be eligible for any tax rebate on your policy, and you may need to pay the Medicare levy surcharge (if you are earning over a certain income and  if you don’t have a suitable level of private hospital cover).

However it’s possible to take an international private health insurance on top of your Medicare cover, which allows you to be treated abroad.

An international health insurance for Australian allows you to be treated in the hospital of your choice or with the doctors of your choice, in Australia or abroad. This is often the best option for people preferring to seek treatment in the private sector, whether in Australia, their country of origin or another country.

Expat Assure helps you decide the most appropriate expat health insurance for Australia depending on your situation and needs. Don’t hesitate to contact us for your personalised health insurance comparison.

What is the best health insurance for expats in Australia?

The best health insurance in Australia for one expat might not be the best for you as everyone has different needs and expectations.

In order to find which one is the best health insurance in Australia for you, it is important to consider several aspects such as your medical history, your age, your specific needs in terms of medical cover, your situation in Australia, alongside other parameters.

Expat Assure helps you to find the international medical insurance for Australia that best suits your profile and requirements. Contact us today to request your free and non-obligatory health insurance comparison.

How much does healthcare cost in Australia
If you are not registered with Medicare, you will generally pay:
  • Consultation with a general practitioner: 40 – 50 Australian dollars
  • Consultation with a specialist doctor: around 150 Australian dollars
  • Dental care: oral examination: 40-100 dollars, check-up: 200 – 250 dollars, crown: 1000 – 1900 dollars.
  • Emergency admission to hospital varies between 230 and 900 dollars. Costs of stay in public hospital rooms can be more than 1000 dollars per day, which doesn’t include treatment.  
  • Practical information

    It is recommended to have an up-to-date vaccination schedule. Vaccinations against Japanese encephalitis may be advised, depending on the conditions of your stay.

    Health examination before entering the Australian territory

    Before entering the Australian territory, some visitors are required a health examination such as an Aids, Hepatitis B and C screening, and/or a chest X-ray. More information on the Australian immigration website:

    Emergency number


    Useful links 


    Healthcare agreement between the UK and 11 other countries:

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