Reciprocal Health Care Agreement
Australia has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) with 11 countries. This can offer some level medical cover when travelling, but doesn't replace travel insurance.
We’re reader-supported and may be paid when you visit links to partner sites. We don’t compare all products in the market, but we’re working on it!
There are 11 countries with Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) with Australia, giving Medicare card holders some free health care in those countries. It's important to note that these agreements don't cover ambulance rides to the hospital, medical repatriation to Australia or emergency dental treatment like travel insurance would. Not to mention all the non-medical cover that you may need like lost luggage, trip cancellations and theft while you're travelling.
Why do I need travel insurance If I'm going to a country with a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement?
Even if you're travelling to a country with a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement, it's advisable to make sure you have an appropriate level of travel insurance when travelling overseas as it's likely the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement won't cover all medical costs in these countries. It's a nice safety net to have BUT it's not as comprehensive as having travel insurance.
What is covered by the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement?
The RHCA was designed to provide subsidised health services for essential medical treatment but not to replace private travel health insurance for overseas travel. It allows Australians visiting these countries to gain access to subsidised health services for essential medical treatment. The RCHA was NOT designed to take the place of private travel insurance. It also does not provide cover for those who have travelled overseas for the specific purpose of receiving medical treatment.
What isn't covered by the RCHA?
The following are just some of the things not covered by the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement:
- Ambulance cover
- Dental care
- Elective treatment
- Medical evacuation to your home country
- Para Medical Services
- Treatment and accommodation in private hospitals, or as a private patient in a public hospital
- Treatment that has been pre-arranged before arrival in Australia
- Treatment that is not immediately necessary.
What countries does Australia have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with?
The cover provided through the RCHA varies from country to country. and there are 11 countries with which Australia Reciprocal Health Care Agreement in place:
|Country||Reciprocal Health Care Agreement Cover|
6. New Zealand
8. Republic of Ireland
11. United Kingdom
Question: Who pays for it? The RHCA is publicly funded and your treatment is paid for by the government of the participating country you are in
How does it work?
The RHCA enables residents of participating countries to receive Medicare benefits when visiting or working in Australia and vice versa when Australians are visiting participating nations. However, the level of cover these non-residents receive when in Australia varies depending on the country they are coming from, much in the same way the level of cover provided to Australians varied from country to county in the section above.
If you are coming to Australia, you need to enrol for Medicare. This can be done at a Department of Human Services Service Centre. Once you have enrolled, you will be eligible to receive treatment under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement.
But how do I enrol?
To enrol in Medicare the following is needed:
- Valid visa
- Proof you're enrolled in your country’s national health scheme (though not always required)
Once you're enrolled and approved, your Australian reciprocal health care card will be sent to you in the mail.
What does a Medicare card entitle me to?
Your Medicare card can be used to get free or subsidised medical treatment when you see a doctor. You can use your Medicare card:
- Making a claim for a doctor's bill
- Subsidised PBS prescriptions.
I'm heading overseas, how do I prove that I am from a RHCA country?
Australian heading overseas need to be able to prove they are eligible for health care, which can be done by providing the relevant parties with :
- Your Australian passport
- Your Medicare card.
Don't go anywhere without travel insurance
As you can see, while the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement does provide medical protection for Australians abroad, the cover is limited. This is why travel insurance is so important. Not only does travel insurance entitle you to a higher level of medical cover, it also covers things like medical evacuation, cancellation, luggage and more. Compare your cover options today and make sure that you're protected next time you head overseas.
Made a search before? Retrieve your search results
Type or Select your destination(s)
More guides on Finder
Cancer health insurance in Australia
Health insurance for cancer improves on what Medicare covers by giving you more control and quicker treatment.
Health insurance for sleep apnoea
Think you may have sleep apnoea? Here's what you need to know about public and private healthcare cover.
Health insurance for chronic pain
See how private health insurance can offer support if you suffer from chronic pain.
Occupational therapy and health insurance
Find out how both Medicare and private health insurance cover occupational therapy to get the assistance you need.
Coronavirus: How it’s impacting life insurance
The outbreak of covid-19 has many people wondering about their insurance options. This guide helps answer all you life insurance question during the coronavirus outbreak.
NSW waives COVID ambulance fees: What about the rest of Australia?
What isn't covered by ambulance services, and can insurance help?
COVID-19 NSW lockdown: Restrictions and mask rules explained
Here are all the new NSW COVID-19 restrictions for Sydney - including travel bans and where you need to wear a mask.
7 health insurance deals to save you money at tax time
Avoid the MLS tax and get a rebate by taking out health insurance. Here are 7 deals that’ll save you money on your tax returns.
You can finally get COVID-19 travel insurance (but what does it actually cover?)
We took a closer look at two travel insurance policies which offer COVID-19 cover, so you know what you're getting for your money.
Book a doctor online
Whether you’re looking for everyday care or specialist treatment, there are a range of online providers who can help with your healthcare needs.
Ask an Expert