The Health System
The Australian Government provides help with some medical, optometrist and hospital expenses through a scheme called Medicare. Medicare provides free treatment as a public (Medicare) patient in a public hospital and patient subsidies for private treatment by doctors and specialists. It also covers some limited services by optometrists, nurse practitioners, midwives and dentists. If you reach a Medicare Safety Net threshold, visits to your doctor or having tests may end up costing you even less.
Migrants, refugees and humanitarian entrants generally have immediate access to health care under Medicare Australia.
When you visit your doctor, they may bulk bill. This means the doctor will claim from Medicare and you will not have to pay for the service. If the doctor does not bulk bill, you will be asked to pay for your treatment and you may be able claim some of the costs back from Medicare or your private health insurance fund. You must take your Medicare card (and Health Care Card if you have one) when you visit your doctor.
The Australian Government also helps with the cost of some medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). If you need a lot of medicine in a year, the PBS Safety Net can help you. Once you reach the PBS Safety net amount and a pharmacist has given you a PBS Safety Net Card, your PBS medicine will be cheaper or free for the rest of the year. If you choose a more expensive brand of medicine, or your doctor prescribes one, you may need to pay more.
Medicare does not pay towards ambulance costs, most dental services, physiotherapy, spectacles, podiatry, chiropractic services, or private hospital accommodation.
To find out if you are eligible and to register with Medicare, you should go to a Medicare office with your passport, travel documents and permanent visa. If all eligibility requirements are met, you may be given your Medicare card number to use until your card arrives in the mail in approximately three weeks. In many cases you will pay for medical care first, and then receive some money back from Medicare.
Medicare administers the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register. If you have a child under the age of seven years, make sure that you bring their immunisation records to help your doctor in Australia determine if their immunisations are up-to-date. Your child’s immunisation history will help you meet immunisation requirements when enrolling your children in school and is also a requirement for some Family Assistance payments.
In addition, Medicare provides help with Family Assistance payments and services. Some of the payments available at your local Medicare office include Family Tax Benefit, Paid Parental Leave, Baby Bonus, Child Care Rebate and Maternity Immunisation Allowance.
Medicare has an Information Kit that is translated into 19 different languages. The kit has information about Medicare’s programs and services and explains the eligibility requirements for benefits and payments. Remember to ask for it when you visit your local Medicare office or go to the website.
|MEDICARE AUSTRALIA CONTACT DETAILS|
|Visit an office||Medicare office locations|
|Medicare Information Kit – available in languages other than English||Information Kit|
Centrelink Health Care Card
If you receive a Centrelink payment or earn a low income, you may be eligible for a government Health Care Card. The card will entitle you to a range of concessions, including the cost of medicines and the health services: doctor, dentist and ambulance.
Note: Even if you have a Health Care Card, you will still need to present your Medicare card with your Health Care Card for all basic hospital and medical treatment.
Centrelink Health Care Card information Centrelink ‘Health Care Cards’ webpage
Private health insurance
Many Australians choose to pay for private health insurance. This covers all or some of the costs of treatment as a private patient in private or public hospitals, and can include some services that Medicare does not cover, such as most dental care, most optical care, and ambulance transport in some states and territories.
The costs and types of cover vary widely, so if you decide to get private health insurance, it is important to compare different funds and check the details carefully before you buy the policy.
The Australian Government offers financial incentives to encourage people to take out private health insurance. If you are considering taking up private health insurance you should be aware of:
1. The Private Health Insurance Rebate – You could be eligible to claim the Private Health Insurance Rebate if you are eligible for Medicare and have a complying health insurance policy that provides hospital treatment, general treatment (‘ancillary’ or ‘extras’) cover or both.
2. The Medicare Levy Surcharge – Most Australian taxpayers have a Medicare Levy included in the amount of tax they pay. The Medicare Levy Surcharge is an additional 1 per cent a surcharge imposed on people who earn over a certain income threshold amount and do not have private hospital insurance. The income thresholds are indexed each year to keep pace with changes in average wages.
3. Lifetime Health Cover – This scheme encourages people to take out hospital cover at an early age. If a person takes out hospital cover after 1 July following their 31st birthday, they will pay more for the same level of cover than a person who took out cover before 1 July following their 31st birthday. The cost increases by 2 per cent for each year that a person delays taking out cover. To avoid the Lifetime Health Cover loading, you must purchase hospital cover from an Australian registered health insurer before your Lifetime Health Cover deadline.
Special conditions apply for new migrants who arrive in Australia after July 1 following their 31st birthday. Migrants do not pay an increased cost if they purchase private hospital cover within 12 months from the day they are registered as eligible for full Medicare benefits.
Refer below to get more information about private health insurance.
|INFORMATION ABOUT PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE||WEBSITE|
|Department of Health and Ageing – information about private health insurance||‘Private Health Insurance’ webpage|
|Department of Health and Ageing – information about Lifetime Health Cover||‘Lifetime Health Cover’ webpage|
|Private Health Insurance Ombudsman||www.phio.org.au|
|Health funds and policy comparison||www.privatehealth.gov.au|
Emergency medical treatment is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the ‘Casualty’ or ‘Emergency’ departments of public hospitals. Public and private hospitals are listed under ‘Hospitals’ in the White Pages telephone directory. Emergency treatment may also be available at some medical centres.
If you or someone you know is dangerously ill, call 000 immediately and ask for an “Ambulance”.
When you go to hospital, remember to take with you any medicines you are using and also your Medicare card, private health insurance membership card, Health Care or Pension Concession Card.
If the situation is not an emergency you should seek medical assistance from your family doctor.
Telephone health information and advice services
All states and territories have telephone services that provide 24 hour, seven days a week guidance about health matters and can direct you to local health services.
You should always try to contact your regular family doctor first. But if they are not available, the services listed below have qualified nurses who can provide immediate professional advice on how urgent your problem is and what to do about it.
Refer to the details below to find out more about the 24 hour, seven days a week telephone health service in your state or territory.
|STATE OR TERRITORY||TELEPHONE HEALTH ADVICE SERVICE||TELEPHONE||WEBSITE|
|ACT||healthdirect||1800 022 222||www.healthdirect.org.au|
|NSW||healthdirect||1800 022 222||www.healthdirect.org.au|
|NT||healthdirect||1800 022 222||www.healthdirect.org.au|
|QLD||13 HEALTH||13 43 25 84||www.health.qld.gov.au|
|SA||healthdirect||1800 022 222||www.healthdirect.org.au|
|TAS||healthdirect||1800 022 222||www.healthdirect.org.au|
|VIC||NURSE-ON-CALL||1300 606 024||www.health.vic.gov.au|
|WA||healthdirect||1800 022 222||www.healthdirect.org.au|
Medicare does not cover the cost of ambulance transport. Ambulance costs vary depending on which state or territory you live in and can be expensive even for a short ride if you do not have ambulance insurance coverage.
In Queensland and Tasmania, ambulance services are generally provided free for local residents. In all other states and territories, fees may be charged. The fees can vary depending on how far you travel by ambulance, the nature of your illness and whether you are eligible for a concession.
If you live outside Queensland or Tasmania you may want to insure against ambulance costs, either through membership schemes provided by the ambulance service (in the Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria and country areas of Western Australia) or through a private health insurance fund (in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and metropolitan Western Australia).
General Practitioners (GPs)
If you have a health concern and it is not an emergency, you should go first to a family doctor (also called a ‘general practitioner’ or GP) or to a medical centre. You can choose which doctor or medical centre you attend – they are listed in the Yellow Pages telephone directory under ‘Medical practitioners’ and online.
Your doctor will require that you make an appointment, usually by telephone, before you arrive. Make sure you are on time for your appointment.
You cannot visit a medical specialist without seeing a general practitioner (family doctor) first. The doctor may refer you to a medical or other specialist for further treatment.
Doctors’ interpreting priority line
Doctors may use a TIS National interpreter to assist with your medical consultation. This is done at no cost to you or your doctor if you are a permanent resident or an Australian citizen and the medical consultation is covered by Medicare. A doctor can also book an on-site interpreter if this is required. You can ask your doctor to access this service.
If your doctor believes you need medicines, you may be given a prescription to take to a chemist shop or pharmacy. Many medicines, such as antibiotics, are only available with a prescription. If you have a Health Care Card or Pension Concession Card provided by Centrelink you will be eligible for a concession on certain medicines. You must also bring your Medicare card when collecting your medicines from the chemist shop.
It is important to read labels and instructions on medicines carefully and ask questions if you are uncertain. For help or information about medicines, speak to a pharmacist or call the Medicine Line.
Pharmacies can also use telephone interpreters to speak with you about medicines. These are free services provided by the government to help you.
|MEDICINES AND PRESCRIPTIONS||TELEPHONE||WEBSITE|
|National|| Medicine Line – National Prescribing|
Service, Monday to Friday – 9.00 am to 5.00 pm
|1300 633 424||‘Medicine Line’ webpage|
|National||Medicare Australia – information about prescriptions||‘Your prescriptions’ webpage|
State and territory health services
State and territory governments provide hospital and community health services. For more information about the services available in your state or territory contact the relevant government department.
|STATE OR TERRITORY||HEALTH AGENCIES||WEBSITE|
|ACT||Department of Health||www.health.act.gov.au|
|NSW||Department of Health||www.health.nsw.gov.au|
|NT||Department of Health and Families||www.health.nt.gov.au|
|SA||Department of Health||www.health.sa.gov.au|
|TAS||Department of Health and Human Services||www.dhhs.tas.gov.au|
|VIC||Department of Health||www.health.vic.gov.au|
|WA||Department of Health||www.health.wa.gov.au|
Examples of community and other health services provided by state and territory governments are:
Community health centres
Community health centres provide health services for people of all ages at low cost. Not all centres provide the same services. The services that are often available include nursing, health education and promotion, physiotherapy, dental care, medical care, counselling and social welfare.
Health services for families with young children
Maternity and child health services are available in most states and territories. These services are usually free for all families with children from birth to school entry age. They offer health information, immunisation, and advice about child development, parenting and nutrition for young children.
Women’s health services
Women’s health services support women to make informed decisions about their own health. They help women either individually or in groups with information such as where you can find your nearest female doctor, where to go to have a pap smear (a preventative test for cervical cancer), breast care, pregnancy, alcohol and drug problems, help with gambling, and where to go if you are a victim of domestic violence.
There is a range of support and services available for people with a disability and their families or carers though state and territory health services.
Services for people from diverse backgrounds
Many hospitals and large health centres have teams of health professionals who supply services for local migrant communities. These services include counselling, advice, referral and health information. Ring your local hospital or community health centre to see if there is a Multicultural Health Worker for your language group.
Mental health services
A number of services exist for people who need help for mental health problems and mental illness. In most common cases, people needing assistance for mental health difficulties should contact their family doctor or community health centre. If you need urgent assistance, contact the psychiatric team at your nearest hospital or contact your doctor. Information and assistance with mental health issues may be found through the agencies listed below.
|MENTAL HEALTH ASSISTANCE||TELEPHONE||WEBSITE|
|Lifeline – 24 Hour Helpline||13 1114||www.lifeline.org.au|
|Kids Helpline – 24 Hour Helpline||1800 55 1800||www.kidshelp.com.au|
|Mens Helpline Australia – 24 Hour Crisis Line||1300 789 978||www.menslineaus.org.au|
Torture and trauma counselling
There are specialised services in each state and territory to assist people who have experienced trauma and torture. Refer below to find out how to access these services in your state or territory.
|TORTURE AND TRAUMA COUNSELLING||TELEPHONE||WEBSITE|
|ACT|| Companion House – Assisting Survivors of|
Torture and Trauma
|02 6251 4550||www.companionhouse.org.au|
|NSW|| Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of|
Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS)
|02 9794 1900||www.startts.org.au|
|NT|| Melaleuca Refugee Centre – support Service for|
Survivors of Torture and Trauma
|08 8985 3311||www.melaleuca.org.au|
|QLD|| Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of|
Torture and Trauma (QPASTT)
|07 3391 6677||www.qpastt.org.au|
|SA|| Survivors of Torture and Trauma Assistance and|
Rehabilitation Service (STTARS)
|08 8346 5433||www.sttars.org.au|
|TAS|| Phoenix Centre – support Service for Survivors of|
Torture and Trauma
|03 6234 9138||www.mrchobart.org.au|
|VIC|| Foundation House – Victorian Foundation for|
Survivors of Torture (VFST)
|03 9388 0022||www.foundationhouse.com.au|
Child safety and accident prevention
Kidsafe, the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia is a non-government organisation that provides child safety and accident prevention information and services to parents and communities. Some translated fact sheets are available in the Western Australian and Victorian sections of the Kidsafe website.
Telephone: See website for state and territory information and contact numbers
Immunisation protects children (and adults) against harmful infections. Immunisation is not compulsory but is recommended for all children. Some states and territories require a record of a child’s immunisations to be presented when the child attends child care or starts school. Child care centres and schools want to know which children have not been immunised.
Immunisations can be obtained from your family doctor or your community health centre. If you wish to obtain the immunisations from your community health centre you will need to contact them to find out which immunisations are available and when they are available.
Your child must be up-to-date with immunisation or have an immunisation exemption for you to receive Child Care Rebate.
|Department of Health and Ageing – National Immunisation Infoline||1800 671 811||www.immunise.health.gov.au|
|Medicare Australia – Australian Childhood Immunisation Register||1800 653 809||www.medicareaustralia.gov.au|
Good oral health is important for general health and wellbeing. Dental care is provided mainly through private dentists. There are private dentists in your local area who usually charge you for their services. They are listed under ‘Dentists’ in the Yellow Pages telephone directory or online. You may wish to take out private health insurance to help cover the cost of dental services.
Medicare Australia also administers the Medicare Teen Dental Plan. The Medicare Teen Dental Plan helps eligible teenagers 12 to 17 years of age with the cost of an annual preventative dental check. If you are eligible, a letter and voucher will be sent to you. A preventative dental check can include x-rays, a scale and clean, fluoride treatment, oral hygiene instructions, dietary advice and sealing pits or cracks in a tooth.
State and territory governments provide a limited range of free oral health care to eligible Centrelink concession card holders. Services provided are primarily relief of pain and some basic oral health care, including dentures. Contact your nearest medical centre or hospital for details of services in your area. Contact Centrelink to see if you qualify for a concession.
AGENCY TELEPHONE WEBSITE
Medicare Australia – Medicare Teen Dental Plan
TELEPHONE: 13 2011
Accessing aged care
Residential aged care provided in aged care homes is for older people who can no longer live in their own home for reasons such as illness, disability, bereavement, an emergency, the needs of their carer, family or friends, or just because it is harder to manage at home without help. Those who do not need such a high level of care may wish to consider independent living units or retirement villages.
Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACATs) advise on what type of Australian Government funded services you need to continue living in your home, or whether you should enter an aged care home.
There are a range of community care services (care for people living in their own homes or in the community) and residential care services (care for people living in nursing homes or hostels) available for older people. You can find telephone numbers for aged care organisations and services in your state or territory (including services for people from non-English speaking backgrounds) listed under ‘Aged’ in the White Pages telephone directory.
Commonwealth Carelink Centres provide information and support to people caring for the elderly and people with disabilities.
|AGED CARE INFORMATION||TELEPHONE||WEBSITE|
|Department of Health and Ageing – Aged and Community Care Infoline||1800 200 422||www.agedcareaustralia.gov.au|
|Centrelink – Residential Aged Care webpage||www.centrelink.gov.au|
|Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres||1800 052 222||www.commcarelink.health.gov.au|
Complaints about health care services
If you are concerned about health care provided to you or another person you can make a complaint to the independent health complaints commission in your state or territory.
| STATE |
|HEALTH CARE COMPLAINTS AGENCY||TELEPHONE||WEBSITE|
|ACT||Human Rights Commission||02 6205 2222||www.hrc.act.gov.au|
|NSW||Health Care Complaints Commission||1800 043 159||www.hccc.nsw.gov.au|
|NT||Health and Community Services Complaints Commission||1800 806 380||www.hcscc.nt.gov.au|
|QLD||Health Quality and Complaints Commission||1800 077 308||www.hqcc.qld.gov.au|
|SA||Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner||1800 232 007||www.hcscc.sa.gov.au|
|TAS||Office of the Health Complaints Commissioner||1300 766 725||www.healthcomplaints.tas.gov.au|
|VIC||Office of the Health Services Commissioner||1800 136 066||www.health.vic.gov.au/hsc|
|WA||Office of Health Review||1800 813 583||www.healthreview.wa.gov.au|