Backpackers & Medical Expenses

You can also view the following posts:
==> Backpackers Tax Refund
==> Backpackers' Working Holiday Visas (Class 417)

Australian residents carry a Medicare card. This entitles them to free or subsidised medical care. Non-residents are not entitled to subsidised medical care. But Australia has concluded reciprocal medical agreements with the following countries ie. UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Italy, Malta, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands.

Residents of these countries, with the exceptions of New Zealand and Ireland, have access to health care on the same basis as Australian residents i.e. they get free public hospital care, subsidised prescriptions and a refund of 85% of doctors' fees.  Many doctors charge only 85% of the set fee ( i.e. "bulk bill")  so the patient has nothing further to pay in those cases. Residents of New Zealand and Ireland are also entitled to free public hospital care and subsidised prescriptions but not a refund of 85% of doctors' fees. However, they can have free access to a doctor by attending an out-patients' clinic at a public hospital. Backpackers who are not residents of any of the afore-mentioned countries will have to rely on their travel insurance to get a refund.

If a backpacker has paid medical expenses in Australia and he is entitled to a refund, he can obtain the refund by applying in person at any Medicare office or online. He should take his passport with him when claiming the refund and also when attending for medical treatment.

For example, assume Fiona, a UK backpacker, sees a doctor who "bulk bills" and pays her a $25 consultation fee. She obtains a prescription for medication from her. Next she goes along to her nearest Medicare office, presents the doctor's receipt and her passport and then obtains a cash refund of the $25. Then, she goes along to her local pharmacist and pays him the standard prescription charge for the medication to have the prescription dispensed.

(Source: Patrick J. Kissane)

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