Australia at a Glance
Australia: Economy and Healthcare
According to 2012 figures, Australia is the among the world’s 20 largest economies, with a high per-capita GDP of USD 42,400. Most laborers and employees work in the service sector, including tourism, education, and financial services. Export plays an important role, in particular commodities rather than manufactured goods. Agriculture (wool and beef) and natural resources (notably gemstones and precious metals) also contribute substantially to Australia´s export performance.
Australia was also hit by the effects of the global financial and economic crisis when export levels declined in 2009. The economy has recovered fairly well, though. The more recent focus on science and technology has attracted new business, providing new employment perspectives for skilled employees.
However, the solid growth of the last few years is expected to slow in 2013. For instance, the boom in mining investment may soon come to a halt. Still, compared to other countries, a prognosis of 2.8% growth is not too bad.
Australia has a public healthcare system called Medicare. It is funded by the so-called Medicare Levy. In most cases, this amounts to 1.5% of every eligible person’s taxable income, though there is an additional surcharge for high-income earners and a reduction for people with low incomes. The levy is automatically deducted from your monthly salary.
Every eligible person can register for a Medicare card. While Medicare covers the cost of most essential treatments, visits to the dentist, hearing or visual aids and physiotherapy, among other things, are not paid for by Medicare. Although significantly cheaper than in some other countries, prescription drugs are not covered by Medicare, either. Chronically ill people can get help under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Everybody living in Australia on a permanent visa is eligible for Medicare assistance in the same way as Australian citizens are. However, most temporary visa holders need to take out private health insurance. You will be asked to provide evidence of your private health care coverage when applying for a working visa.
Some countries have a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Australia: Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, and the UK.
Nationals of these countries can receive Medicare assistance for essential medical treatments while they are visiting Australia. However, this does not replace the benefits of private travel insurance, nor is it meant for long-term residents from these states.
Private Health Insurance
Even Australians are actively encouraged by their government to take out private health insurance if they can afford it. There are various financial incentives, e.g. a 30 % rebate on insurance premiums. However, if you are not eligible for Medicare in the first place, you won´t be able to benefit from these government schemes.
There is a wide variety of private healthcare providers – called funds – that offer different service packages. For information on funds and products, you can start by consulting the website of the Australian Government Private Health Insurance Administration Council. It provides advice on the sort of cover required for certain types of temporary visas.