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Medical and Health
The official advice is to take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.
The UK has a mutual healthcare agreement with Australia. This means British holidaymakers are entitled to limited subsidised health services as a public patient in a Medicare Australia public hospital free of charge, but not necessarily for existing conditions, medicines or ambulance services. All of which can be pricy.
Documents needed: Proof of UK residency (temporary entry permit, UK driving licence, NHS medical card).
Doctors and Dentists
Doctors: There’s no charge to see a doctor who’s registered for bulk billing with Medicare – look for the ‘bulk billing’ and Medicare Card signs.
If they don’t bulk bill, you can pay at consultation then claim back part of the fee. You need to enrol at a local Medicare office, but you can do this after treatment or reception staff can help.
Medicare claim limit is £150 a day or £325 a month. Remember to keep all receipts.
Pre-existing medical conditions (eg heart problems, high blood pressure) aren’t covered under Medicare, so it’s vital to take out comprehensive travel insurance for medical emergency expenses, especially the sky high Australian ambulance costs.
In the outback and rural areas, treatment is provided by the Flying Doctor service.
Dentists: Routine dental exams and treatment aren’t covered by Medicare. Dentist are thin on the ground in rural/remote areas and very expensive everywhere.
Hospital Treatment and Ambulance Costs
The Australian health care system is world class. Expect to pay around £600 a day for private hospital treatment. Remember you need clearance from your travel insurer for anything over £500 otherwise they might not pay out.
Ambulance: Transport costs including medical evacuations aren’t free and can cost anything from £500 for a 5-minute trip to £100,000 and more for an air ambulance rescue in the outback.
Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of medical evacuation or repatriation to the UK if you’re too sick to continue your holiday. For expensive destinations like Australia, it’s important to have cancellation cover.
Unless you’re a hospital in-patient, you need to pay for prescription medicines. Some medicines for chronic conditions are subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) otherwise you need to pay full price.
Prices can vary widely between chemists. Ask for the generic equivalent - just as effective but kinder on your wallet.