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Reciprocal health care agreement (RHCA)

11 countries have a reciprocal health care agreement with Australia.

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In most cases, if you're an overseas visitor or relocating to Australia, you probably won't be covered by Australia's public healthcare system, Medicare. However, Australia has reciprocal health care agreements (RHCA) in place with 11 other countries, which you may be eligible for, giving you access to Medicare and making health care affordable.

What is reciprocal health care?

Reciprocal health care is an agreement that gives Australians access to medically necessary care when they visit certain countries and, in return, allows visitors to access some of Australia's public health care when they visit Australia.

At the time of writing, the Australian government has reciprocal health care agreements with 11 other countries. They allow eligible people visiting from those countries to access free or reduced-cost health care via Australia's Medicare system.

How does a reciprocal health care agreement work?

A reciprocal health care agreement gives foreign visitors from certain countries the right to access some of Australia's public health services. In return, Australians travelling to any of the 11 countries that the government has an agreement with can also access their public healthcare systems.

For eligible visitors to Australia, it's important to remember that you will have access to the benefits available under Medicare, not your own healthcare system. This means that you will only get access to basic medical services and emergency treatment under certain circumstances.

Medicare is not as wide-ranging as health services in other countries and does not cover you for ambulance, dental work, subsidised medicines or other out of hospital medical care. As a result, many Australians have private health insurance; this is essentially to make up for the gaps in the public healthcare system. If you want the same level of care you are used to back home, you might want to get overseas visitors health cover (OVHC).

Which countries have an RHCA with Australia?

Australia has RHCAs in place with the following countries:

  • The United Kingdom
  • The Republic of Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • Sweden
  • The Netherlands
  • Finland
  • Belgium
  • Norway
  • Slovenia
  • Malta
  • Italy

When a citizen of any of the countries above visits Australia, they have access to a range of subsidised healthcare services. Visitors with student visas from Norway, Finland, Malta and the Republic of Ireland who visit Australia are not covered under the RHCA.

Australian citizens can also access cover for the cost of essential medical treatment when they visit any of the 11 countries above.

What treatments are included in RHCAs?

Visitors from RHCA countries are entitled to the following while in Australia:

  • Free or reduced-cost treatment as a public inpatient or outpatient in a public hospital
  • Subsidised prescription medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)
  • Medicare benefits for out-of-hospital medical treatment and GP visits

What is not included in RHCA?

It's important to know that Medicare doesn't cover all health services. These are some of the healthcare services you will not be covered for:

  • Treatment in a private hospital or as a private patient
  • Ambulance
  • Dental treatment
  • Extras services, e.g. out-of-hospital care like optical, physio, chiro and more

You will need to pay for these services if you want them, which can cost a lot. Alternatively, you can get health insurance for overseas visitors which can cover all of the above.

Overseas visitors health cover vs reciprocal health care agreement

Foreign visitors to Australia also have another option available to them to ensure they receive the cover they need for medical treatment while in Australia: taking out private health insurance. Several Australian health funds offer what is known as overseas visitors health cover (OVHC), which is health insurance specifically designed to cover foreign residents while they visit Australia.

OVHC is designed to cover a portion of an overseas visitor's healthcare expenses while they are in Australia. This includes cover for the following:

  • Hospital accommodation and surgical fees for medically necessary hospital admissions
  • Partial cover for medical fees
  • Emergency room costs
  • Emergency ambulance
  • Cover for some pharmaceuticals
  • Cover for some extras services, such as dental and optical

Do I need overseas visitors health cover if I am from a country that has an RHCA with Australia?

No, the RHCA meets the eligibility criteria set out in Australian visa applications. Having said that, OVHC is an essential consideration for all visitors to Australia. Because Medicare doesn't take care of all your health needs, you could be left with substantial out-of-pocket medical and hospital expenses if you suffer an illness or injury while in Australia. RHCAs do not cover the following:

  • Ambulance transport
  • Dental care
  • Elective treatment
  • Medical evacuation to your country of residence
  • Treatment and accommodation in a private hospital or as a private patient in a public hospital
  • Treatment that is not immediately necessary

It's recommended that you consider OVHC before coming to Australia even if it is not a requirement of your visa. Having private health insurance in place means you can access the health care you need whenever you need it, and that you won't be left with a substantial bill for the cost of treatment.

Name Product Visa Compliant Hospital Cover Dental Pregnancy Cover GP Visits Medical Repatriation Price
health.com.au Budget Workers Cover
Optional
$10,000
From $65 per month
From $65 per month.
Medibank Overseas Workers Base Hospital
From $71 per month
From $71 per month.
Allianz Budget Working Cover
$20,000
From $75 per month
From $75 per month.
Frank Minimum Working Visa Cover
$20,000
From $75 per month
From $75 per month.
health.com.au Minimum Workers Cover
Optional
$20,000
From $77 per month
From $77 per month.
Frank Mid Workers Cover
$20,000
From $100 per month
From $100 per month.
Medibank Overseas Workers Standard Hospital and Medical
From $101 per month
From $101 per month.
Allianz Standard Working Cover
$20,000
From $110 per month
From $110 per month.
health.com.au Essential Workers Cover
Optional
$20,000
From $110 per month
From $110 per month.
Frank Mid Workers Plus Bundle
$20,000
From $125 per month
From $125 per month.
health.com.au Essential Plus Workers Cover
$20,000
From $131 per month
From $131 per month.
Allianz Mid Working Cover
$20,000
From $158 per month
From $158 per month.
Medibank Overseas Workers Advanced Hospital and Medical
From $285 per month
From $285 per month.
Allianz Top Working Cover
$20,000
From $298 per month
From $298 per month.
Medibank Overseas Workers Premium Hospital, Medical and Extras
From $311 per month
From $311 per month.
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I'm an Australian overseas, how does RHCA work for me?

The cover available to Australians travelling overseas varies depending on the RHCA country you visit:

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4 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    LauraSeptember 11, 2017

    I will be on holiday in Australia for 2 months from Nov 2017 to Jan 2018, visiting family with my husband. We are UK citizens, with eVisitor subclass 651 visas.
    I am on Methotrexate for Psoriatic arthritis, so will require routine blood tests while there.
    I need to find out if the reciprocal agreement covers this. If not, which travel/health insurance would?

    • Default Gravatar
      LiezlSeptember 12, 2017

      Hi Laura,

      Thanks for reaching out. While blood tests are covered under Australia’s public healthcare system – Medicare, I’m not sure if it’s applicable to routine blood tests. You’d best contact Medicare directly to verify. You can find their contact details on this page.

      Meanwhile, you may check this page for insurance brands which offer overseas visitors health insurance. You might also find this page helpful.

      Cheers,
      Liezl

  2. Default Gravatar
    PeterJuly 30, 2017

    My wife and myself have just joined our daughter using a Aged Parient 804 visa which has been granted subject to medical and police reports. Which can take up to two years before these checks are complete and then a period on a bridging visa which can be 30years before residency .
    As UK citizens we have been issued with a Green Medicare Card but we need to supplement our cover. What is the should we look for in our cover and who are the best companies to approach.

    • Default Gravatar
      ArnoldAugust 4, 2017

      Hi Peter,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      Please note finder is a comparison and information service and not an insurer.

      If you would like to compare policies from Australian health funds, please enter your details into quote comparison tool here https://www.finder.com.au/health-insurance

      Once you have done so you will be able to review quotes from 30+ health funds and sort these quotes by price or by the value of the policy. While we are able to provide quotes for 35 health funds, you will only be able to apply for coverage with the funds in our panel.

      Hope this information helped.

      Cheers,
      Arnold

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