About the Australian Healthcare System 

The Australian Healthcare System is one of the best in the world, over $180 billion is spent on healthcare each year. A prosperous economy, healthy lifestyle and cutting edge medical facilities make it a world leader in this area. In a recent study, 4 out of 5 rated the healthcare system as very good or excellent. 

Using a partially public and privately funded system, their healthcare system is more similar to that of the UK, compared to other more privatised countries. Two thirds of the overall spending on medical care, hospital care and other health services comes from the state and federal government. All states have national support from the government but how they deliver certain aspects of care may differ depending on the local state government. 

So how does the Australian healthcare system work and what do you need to know if you’re moving there?

Typically, if you feel ill or want to speak to a doctor about a health condition you will book an appointment with a general practitioner (GP) at a surgery or another primary care facility. The doctor will assess you and then either treat you, prescribe medicines or triage you to another specialist. If you are seriously ill and it’s an emergency, you should go immediately to an Accident & Emergency (A&E) department at a public hospital. 

The broader healthcare ecosystem in Australia has a diverse number of services delivered by other allied health professionals. This includes mental health services, dentistry, dietitians, podiatry, family planning, social work and other services. If you need a specific service, you can search on this government directory.

How is the Australian healthcare system funded and who pays?

The majority of healthcare is free or low cost for citizens, funded by the Australian government through a scheme called Medicare. The Department of Health has a list of all health services that the government subsidises, this is called the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). 

Depending on your country of origin, many other nations have organised a reciprocal care agreement with Australia. You can find out what free or low cost healthcare you are entitled to here. If you are entitled to Medicare, you should register for a card immediately when you get to Australia. If not you will have to pay for your healthcare up front, and claim a portion back from the receipts when your application is processed, which normally takes around 2-4 weeks. If you are travelling through Australia, we’d also suggest purchasing additional healthcare cover from private health insurers. This tends to be inexpensive and an essential in case you have an accident or become very ill, which will lead to potentially high treatment fees.

Private healthcare 

Generally, the public health care is very good, but some also choose private healthcare for the premium service. Private healthcare gives its members access to private hospitals, reduced waiting times for specialists and other benefits depending on the provider and level of care. 

A lot of citizens choose private healthcare plans to cover specific needs such as dentistry or physiotherapy. It’s your choice if you’d like to opt for and pay for these services but generally you will end up paying less if you take out a plan compared to paying for the services yourself, if you need them. You can find and compare private healthcare providers on websites like this. Some providers will reduce your healthcare cover cost if you agree to keep yourself healthy. These means tested plans use regular tests or trackable devices to ensure you’re committed to reducing your risk of illness.

Medicine and pharmaceutical costs

Medicare also reduces the cost of medicine. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) includes over 5,200 different medicines that have a reduced cost through government subsidies. Typically, a doctor will prescribe medicines on a script which the patient will take to a pharmacy to pick up. Patients normally have to pay a small portion of the cost or a set fee at the pharmacy to receive the medicine. 

Thinking of working in the Australian healthcare system?

If you’re interested in working in Australia as a healthcare professional, these jobs tend to be featured on the industry skills shortage list and will assist in visa applications. Check out our Finding Work In Australia: Top Industries With Skills Shortages article for more information or drop the Yonder team a message (link article 42).

Thinking of moving to Australia?

You may be interested in our following articles:

Finding Work In Australia: Top Tips from Locals 

Buying a House in Australia: A Beginner’s Guide 

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Yonder Australia is a “real time” interactive news and learning platform for people for moving country.


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