Understanding the Australian healthcare system

Australia has a public and private healthcare system. It’s important to know the difference between each one.

The cost of medical treatment

If you need medical attention while you’re in Australia and you don’t have health cover it can be very expensive, whether you’re treated in the public or the private healthcare system.

What are the differences between the public and the private healthcare system?

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The public healthcare system (Medicare)

Medicare is the public health system that gives some Australian residents free or discounted health services. If you’re from a country with a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA^) you might receive some Medicare benefits, which may be known as Reciprocal Medicare.

Read more on reciprocal healthcare arrangements

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The private healthcare system

The private healthcare system (which Medibank is part of) complements the public healthcare system, or if you’re not eligible for Medicare, it helps replace it.

Medibank provides private health insurance (also known as overseas health cover) to overseas students, visitors and workers to help with the cost of services provided in the private healthcare system. This includes emergency ambulance trips and a range of treatments as a private patient in a private or a public hospital.

Recommended reading

What to do if you get sick in Australia

Here is a simple guide to help you get the right medical attention if you need it.


Should you go to the doctor, or the hospital emergency department?

There's a lot of confusion about when you should visit a doctor (GP), or call an ambulance to take you to the hospital emergency department.

Overseas health cover with Medibank

Find health cover to match your needs while you're in Australia, plus take out Overseas Workers Health Cover or Overseas Student Health Cover and receive your visa health insurance certificate as soon as you purchase online.

What health insurance do I need for my Australian visa?

Are you planning on visiting Australia for work, study or travel? If the answer is yes, you will need to apply for a visa.


Understanding waiting periods

All health funds have waiting periods. In short, a waiting period is a period of time you need to wait after taking out your cover before you can receive benefits for services or items covered.

What are out-of-pocket expenses?

An out-of-pocket expense is the money you pay for hospital, medical or extras service or item that are not repaid by Medibank. Find out more about possible out-of-pocket expenses.

Need some help?

We’re here to help you choose the health cover that matches your needs while you’re in Australia. 
Contact Medibank how it suits you; messaging, WeChat, in-store or by phone.

Overseas students (OSHC)

Message one of our friendly staff about your cover options.

Visitor, working and working holiday (OVHC)

Speak to one of our friendly staff for sales and policy enquiries.

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Things you should know

^ If you’re from a country that has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) with Australia, you might receive some Medicare (public healthcare system) benefits. This may be known as Reciprocal Medicare. These benefits could include free basic medical services and emergency treatment. They won’t include things like emergency ambulance trips, dental work or private patient hospital costs (you need overseas health cover to receive benefits for these)

While we hope you find this information helpful, please note that it is general in nature. It is not health advice, and is not tailored to meet your individual health needs. You should always consult a trusted health professional before making decisions about your health care. While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them. For these reasons we are unable to accept responsibility for any loss that may be sustained from acting on this information (subject to applicable consumer guarantees).