Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Medicare and Private Health Insurance ..

I’ve been quite sick past few days with a really bad cough & cold so it’s been a while since my last post. Only just starting to recover now and what better way to stimulate the brain cells than by – writing a new blog post!

And suitably, today’s topic is about medical bills and what financial coverage is available to you – other than cold hard cash of course! Medical bills can be exorbitantly high in Australia ranging from $50 for a GP consultation to many tens of thousands for major cases like premature births. 

So to prevent yourself from being bankrupted by medical bills, these are the 2 core components of the Australian Health System – Medicare and Private Health Insurance
  • Medicare
    • This is the government run, publicly funded (i.e. FREE) medical social welfare system. 
    • This is available to all citizens and permanent residents (PR). Sorry, but temporary student and working visas need not apply! 
    • When you get to Australia, you can step into any Medicare office and apply for a card. 
    • Once enrolled, medical bills (exclusions apply like medicines) are theoretically free! 
    • There is a catch of course and that is it is only totally free at public hospitals and certain (bulk billing) GPs. 
    • You can still go with your own GP but you will need to top-up any excess from the Medicare limit with your own money.
    •  Admittedly, the service and quality of free care is nowhere near what is offered with private services which are a lot of pricier. Which brings us to the next option ...
  • Private Health Insurance
    • Firstly, Private Health Insurance is meant to complement and not replace Medicare
    • You basically pay for additional coverage on top of what Medicare provides which is very limited 
    • If you are on a temporary student or working visa, this is the only option available 
    •  If you can afford the additional, I would definitely recommend taking up this option as well even if you are eligible for Medicare 
    • You don’t need to pay the 1% Medicare Surcharge Tax if you have a private health insurance plan 
    • There is a multitude of various combinations of private health insurance packages that can range from $15 to $55 per week 
    • But most people choose a Hospital + Extras cover that 
      • Allow them a higher level of care at public hospitals (e.g. private rooms) 
      • Cover for stays at private (i.e. posh!) hospitals 
      • Items not covered by Medicare like dental, glasses/contact lenses, ambulance services, acupuncture, hearing aids, etc. 
      • Some higher end packages even include rebates for gym memberships and exercise equipment! 
Obviously this is a HUGE topic and I am only giving a tip-of-the-iceberg summary here. Feel free to post any questions and I would love to help answer them. :)


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