Of all the preparation for our overseas move I found solving the health insurance-puzzle the most complicated one. From figuring out how it all works to finding the right balance between getting appropriate cover and not paying an enormous amount. So that is why we share our personal experience on this matter.
In our case our visa (457) required us to have a private insurance on application of the visa. So it was one of the first things we had to dive into. Googling on ‘overseas visitor health cover’ gets you to insurance companies that offer private health care for overseas visitors, as we are called.
I found a page that explains the basics on how the Australian health care system works, in a non complicated way.
Since we applied for our visa in February and moved in June we were not sure how that worked. Our health care provider activated our cover in February, during the application, and froze it afterwards, so we did not have to pay for the months that we were not in Australia. A day before our flight we activated it again, so we would also be covered during the flight.
The public health system is called Medicare and is available to all Australians. If you are not Australian you might still be eligible if your country has a reciprocal health care agreement with Australia. Check out the list of reciprocal agreement countries.
Medicare covers all basic health care in Australia, but it does have its limitations. Therefore even locals usually have additional private health care.
You can only apply for Medicare once you have arrived in Australia. We made an appointment at the local Medicare center, took our Dutch health insurance cards and visa papers along and that was all it took. You do need to be there in person. The fact that our Dutch cards were no longer active was not an issue.
Private Health Insurance
Even if you are applicable to Medicare, it is not covering everything. The three most important ones missing are ambulance cover, dentist and private hospitals.
The ambulance you never hope to use, but that is one of these unpredictable ones. If at some point you need it, you want to be fully covered.
The costs for dentists are much higher in Australia then what we were used to. They are among the most expensive in the world if not the most expensive. I found this a good page to get an impression of dental costs. I will write a blog post about our dentist experience later.
If you want a good/better treatment you might want to go to a private hospital. Coming from a country where I am not familiar with private hospitals this is especially hard one to decide on. We went for rather safe then sorry option and decided to take cover for it. If we ever do get into the position where we would need it, we would rather have the possibility.
If you have Medicare, the private health insurance is usually a bit cheaper.
We opted for BUPA, they helped us very well. After we got our Medicare we changed our plan to an established family cover. I find the brochures which they supply a lot easier to read than their website. Almost every mall has an office, so you can easily pick one up. We chose this because the children are fully covered for almost everything, it has a medium hospital cover and 60% back on extra’s like dentist costs, with a relatively high maximum.
We still do not know if we made the best decision, but so far it has been working well for us.
What have you chosen and what is the reason for it?