Travel Insurance Expert

Does Medicare apply overseas?

Holiday Healthcare Explained 

Read our helpful guide below to understand how the different healthcare systems abroad affects Australian travellers. We explain the importance of having emergency medical cover included with your travel insurance policy and more... 

Medicare while overseas

Medicare cover is the backbone of the Australian public healthcare system, covering primary healthcare costs for Australian citizens and most permanent residents of the country. Under Medicare, you can be treated as a public patient at a hospital at no charge whilst the cover includes a variety of services such as routine tests and examinations, consultation fees for doctors and specialists and most surgical and therapeutic procedures.

Of course, this is all well and good if you get ill or have an accident near home or whilst travelling domestically around Australia. But don’t make the mistake of thinking Medicare will cover you for healthcare treatment overseas, or you could be in for a nasty surprise.

Medicare benefits are not available for the treatment you receive abroad. It is important to buy the correct type of travel insurance to cover your healthcare when travelling outside of Australia, so that you can enjoy that family holiday to Bali or skiing trip to New Zealand with the peace of mind that comes from knowing you and your travelling companions are properly covered, should disaster strike.

Australian healthcare overseas

The reason that some people might think they have valid Medicare while overseas is that some countries have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) with the Australian Government, offering some healthcare benefits that you can access by presenting your Medicare card. If you require medical treatment in one of these countries then you will be able to get some help towards medical expenses. However, the list of countries is limited and each has its own stipulations as part of the agreement.

Participating RHCA countries include Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Sweden, and the UK. We would advise you to check the specifications for each country before you travel in case any changes are made to the policy. Also, some destinations require additional documents. For example, you will require a certificate of eligibility for access to the public healthcare system in the Netherlands.

The healthcare benefits you might expect from countries with an RHCA with Australia could include reduced hospital fees, reduced ambulance charges, in-patient treatment at a hospital, prescription medicine and emergency dental care. However, it is likely you will need to pay for some bills yourself.

Even in these countries, and especially in those that do not have an RHCA, you could still face medical bills that could easily rack up into thousands of dollars should you require medical treatment or repatriation. Always make sure your travel insurance policy covers you for healthcare outside of Australia – when it comes to your health and the health of your family, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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