Reciprocal Health Care Agreement

What is the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement and what does it cover?

The Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) is an agreement that allows Australians (in certain countries) can walk on into a hospital and be covered by their version of Medicare. What this means is that you'll receive the same level of cover you would if you needed treatment here at home. What this doesn't mean is that you should travel without travel insurance.

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.

Don't get hit by the high costs of overseas medical treatment – compare travel insurance today

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
  • Funerals
  • 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:

CountryReciprocal Health Care Agreement Cover

1. Belgium

  • 33% of ambulance costs
  • Partial reimbursement of hospital services
  • Medical treatment by general practitioners and by specialists
  • Some dental (75-60%)
  • Reimbursement of pharmaceutical medicines.

2. Finland

  • You're eligible to receive a refund after your treatment if you need to see dentist or private doctor
  • Some dental
  • Children 15 and under get free services
  • Outpatient medical treatment
  • Prescription medicine costs from pharmacies
  • Nursing care from health centres
  • If you're born after 1956 you can get the costs for dental care refunded
  • Limited subsidised health care.

3. Italy

  • Subsidised health care (max 6 months)
  • Some dental treatment
  • Medical treatment
  • Treatment in public hospitals.

4. Malta

  • Subsidised health care (max 6 months)
  • Ambulance travel
  • Hospital outpatient consultations provided by specialists in government service
  • Some emergency dental
  • Inpatient care
  • Medical attention at health centre
  • Nursing care.

5. Netherlands

  • Ambulance partially refunded
  • Third class accommodation in hospitals.
  • Prescription medicine costs.

6. New Zealand

  • Limited subsidised health care
  • Inpatient treatment.

7. Norway

  • Ambulance travel
  • Ancillary care
  • Emergency dental treatment
  • Hospital inpatient treatment
  • Medical treatment from an NIS general practitioner
  • Some prescription medication costs
  • Children 7 and under get free services
  • No charge for hospital.

8. Republic of Ireland

  • Public hospital care is available for a small fee for the first 10 days of your stay in any year and then it is free thereafter. A fee is charged for attendance at outpatient or accident and emergency departments if you are not referred by a doctor.

9. Slovenia

  • Subsidised public health medical treatment
  • Subsidised medical treatment by private GP's
  • Ambulance
  • Reimbursement of prescription medications.

10. Sweden

  • Medical treatment
  • Partial private doctor fees
  • Some travel costs incurred to get medical treatment, e.g. Ambulance.

11. United Kingdom

  • Medical treatment
  • Inpatient treatment
  • Outpatient treatment
  • Some prescription medication costs
  • Ambulance.

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.

Check out the full moving to Australia guide here!

But how do I enrol?

To enrol in Medicare the following is needed:

  • Passport
  • 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.

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Richard Laycock

Richard is the insurance editor at finder.com.au. He is on a mission to make insurance easier to understand.

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4 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    PhilAugust 8, 2017

    I want to go to nz on holiday but require dialysis treatment three times each week. As I am an Australian citizen, is this free for me over there or do I need to pay and claim it back from Medicare when I return?

    • Staff
      RenchAugust 8, 2017Staff

      Hi Phil,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      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.

      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.

      If you are heading overseas and need to be able to prove you are eligible for health care, which can be done by providing the relevant parties with :

      - Your Australian passport
      - Your Medicare card

      I suggest contacting Medicare directly before you travel overseas to inquire and confirm the information.

      Best regards,
      Rench

  2. Default Gravatar
    colinJune 18, 2017

    I have lived in Australia for nearly 4 years, have my own house all paid for and a bank account. I never claimed anything from the government and was completely self-sufficient. I am waiting for an aged parent visa subclass 804 to be processed and currently on a bridging visa. I have a reciprocal Medicare Card and was told I am classed as a visitor. When do I stop being classed as a visitor, become a resident and get full Medicare benefits? Thanks Colin.

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