Backpackers Checklist: You Need To Get Medicare!

Backpackers Checklist: You Need To Get Medicare!

There is quite nothing like backpacking through Australia. With its laid-back atmosphere, cultural diversity and some of the world's oldest geological features, it is a destination that will never disappoint. So whether you decide to explore the spectacular Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, see the baffling bubble-gum pink Lake Hillier or wander through the Litchfield National Park, you are in for an adventure.

But life is life, and sometimes things go terribly wrong. Getting sick or injured sucks, but it is even worse when being abroad. To avoid unpleasant situations and enormous bills, you should consider applying for a Medicare card. Here's why getting a Medicare card should be on every backpacker's checklist.

What is Medicare, and why would I need it?

Travelling to Australia really is a dream come true. Well, unless you are having too much fun and end up sick. Nothing can ruin a backpacking trip more than stacks of health bills, which are more than your travel budget. Thankfully, there's Medicare – Australia's public health insurance system. With medicare, you get a personalised card that offers significant discounts or free public health care in Australian state hospitals - similar to the NHS but you need the card! For specific medications and treatments, you may still have to pay, but still, it is worth it to have it.

Who can apply for Medicare?

To be part of Medicare, you don't have to be an Aussie. The land of kangaroos has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with many countries around the globe like the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Norway and more, which means their residents can use the benefits of the system too. 

The UK is among the list of these countries. Therefore British people may apply for Medicare when they are adventuring in Australia. However, keep in mind that the coverage is lower than what Australian citizens get. For foreigners, Medicare mostly provides essential care. On some occassions, you may not get any coverage, so – before your travels – make sure to check what is included and what is not.

To be eligible for Medicare, you must have been living in the United Kingdom before your arrival in Australia. Students can also sign-up for the card, so make use of this opportunity!

What is covered?

Generally, if you are planning on getting Medicare in Australia, you may expect it to cover treatments in a public hospital, surgeries, subsidised medicine (which is under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) and consultations with a specialist (this, however, is partially covered). 

Note that alternative medications, physiotherapy, dental expenses, glasses or contact lenses, and treatments in private hospitals won't be covered. In case you need ambulance services, it is important to remember it also won't be paid for.

The process of billing really depends on the doctor and the treatment. In some cases, you may be charged by the rate that is set by Medicare. After that, you will get 75% back. In this scenario, you must pay the gap between the doctor's fee and Medicare. 

In other instances, you may get bulk billing. That means you won't be charged anything, except for the consultation fee, when you receive a service (as long as you present your Medicare card). However, note that it can sometimes be pricey too – from $70 to $120.

If – for some reason – you must be hospitalised in a public hospital, you don't have to worry about paying anything because Medicare takes care of that. But – if you are getting help in a private hospital or are listed as a 'private patient', only 75% of the costs will be covered. 

Whatever health issues you may have, it is crucial to show your Medicare card on every occasion and medical appointment. Even if it doesn't cover everything, it can get you your money back.

How can you sign up for Medicare?

If you are wondering how to move to Australia, having proper medical care is probably crucial to you. Well, you should know that any permanent resident or Australian citizen is automatically subscribed to Medicare. But – those who aren't citizens – may sign up for the card on the government's website

To apply for Medicare, you will need your passport and a valid visa. But, of course, you can always sign up by visiting a Medicare office in Australia.

When does your cover start?

So, you have arrived in Australia and are ready to adventure. How can you know when your cover starts and ends? It is simple! The day you arrive in Australia is when it begins to be in action. The cover ends whenever your visa or your British health insurance expires. 

If you haven't yet enrolled in Medicare but have needed medical assistance, you may still get some of your money back after you sign-up. For that to happen, you must submit a claim. Not long after, you should receive an answer on whether you can get a benefit under the agreement or not.

Do I need travel insurance if I have Medicare?

The simple answer is – yes. The whole idea of Medicare is that it isn't a replacement for travel insurance. Whether you are planning a relatively short backpacking trip or an adventure for a longer period getting travel insurance should be on your checklist. 

The point of Medicare is not paying petrifying fees for receiving medical treatment in state facilities. But it doesn't give you all the benefits that travel insurance does. After all – Medicare won't pay you back money if your baggage was damaged or stolen. It won't help you in case you need to be repatriated to the UK. 

For these reasons, it is still crucial to purchase travel insurance (like you would do travelling to any other part of the world). Only then can you feel assured you are fully covered in Australia.

Do I need private medical cover?

If you fall in love with the land of kangaroos (it is quite difficult not to) and decide to stay for a longer time – or even move there – it is best to opt for a private medical cover. In fact, more than half of Australians have some kind of health insurance because Medicare doesn't apply to all occasions and needs. 

While you don't have to pay the scary fees, the gap between what is covered and what is not can still be a lot. Not to mention dentist appointments, which – most of us – are in need of at least at some point in our lives. Due to this, it can be really beneficial to have a private medical cover, which removes the additional pressure.

For most backpacking adventures, you won't need medical help. But – as the saying goes – it is better to be safe than sorry. Nothing can spoil the fun more than health problems, which is why it is so important to get Medicare while travelling to Australia.

If you are interested to learn more about work, travel or studying opportunities in Australia, don't hesitate to contact one of the friendly team members below. Schedule a free online appointment to ask questions or simply hop on our live chat – we will guide you through what is next!

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