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Health care in Australia

Australia has an excellent health care system. With over 1,300 hospitals across the country, roughly half are public, the other half private.

Both types receive funding from the central Australian government, territory or state government, private health insurance and from the pockets of individual patients; it’s the percentage of support from each source that differs. Public hospitals get 90% of the funds they need from a central source, whereas private ones receive just 32%, the rest being met from other funds.

With a 330,000-strong workforce staff, this network of facilities delivers everything from emergency and critical care through to inpatient clinics.

It is no wonder that the WHO World Health Report ranked Australia 32 out of 191 member states in 2000, for the effectiveness, responsiveness and financing of its health care system. With 9.4% of its GDP spent on maintaining the country’s health, men have a life expectancy of 81, and women 85 — an excellent but not unsurprising statistic.

Even though there is a reciprocal visitor health care cover arrangement with countries such as the UK, Sweden and Republic of Ireland, newcomers will need to prove an adequate level of private health care insurance to obtain a visa, just to enter the country. Those staying to live and work can apply for what is known as Medicare, once inside Australia's borders. This is a state-funded scheme, paid for through taxes and other levies. Newcomers intending to stay for an extended period need to start the application process within a week of arrival, and because it can take up to a month to obtain cover, private insurance to cover the interim is a must.

Given that half of Australia's population has their private health cover, it is no surprise that many expats in the country opt for this as well. Not only does it ensure ambulance, dentistry and eye care (not covered by Medicare) but it will beat the sometimes quite lengthy waiting lists for elective surgery. That said, you can expect a high standard of facilities in both private and public hospitals: and as emergency care is only provided in public hospitals (private ones being for elective surgery) this is a good thing.

For higher wage earners, private health care cover is a must. The Australian government incentivises this kind of cover by offering a subsidy, as it acknowledges that these people will not be using the centrally funded facilities. The flip side of this is that those who are on a high salary who choose not to top up their cover will find themselves penalised in their wage packet through the tax system.

Although Australia has an excellent centrally funded health care system, if you need anything beyond very basic care or if you are in a higher wage bracket, private health insurance is a must – and you’ll need it from the very outset anyway.

There is plenty of information about the Medicare system, how to apply and why private health care cover is important on the Australian government website.

With excellent facilities and a comprehensive system, the quality of health care in Australia is highly regarded worldwide. Make sure you can avail yourself of all it has to offer by having adequate insurance for you and your family. Call one of our expert team today for a friendly chat about what we can do to support your move to Australia.

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