Do not worry though, it is not my intention to start boring you with regulations and insurance providers but just to give you an idea of how it works and perhaps you can compare it to your country’s healthcare system.
For tourists and working holiday visa makers, there is a bilateral agreement between Europe and Australia which guarantees healthcare coverage to all European citizens for a maximum of six months from their entry into the country. Such system is called medicare and it covers treatments in public hospitals, consultations with a general practitioner, prescriptions of medicines and services such as x-rays and other exams.
I was surprised to learn that medicare does not cover ambulance services which in Italy are totally free of charge (how is it in Japan?) and some specialty services and doctors such as the dentist, physiotherapy, eye visits, some surgeries and clinics.
Using medicare at times means that you have to pay the cost of the service up front and then get a refund by contacting their offices.
It is possible to pay out of pocket or take out complementary insurance to cover what is not covered by medicare and to obtain your medicare card, you can simply visit one of the many health centers located throughout Australia.
This system is partially financed by a 1.5% tax on each resident's salary. An additional 1% is calculated for those who earn above a certain amount whereas, on the contrary, those who do not earn enough are exempt from this tax.
Those people in Australia who have a permanent work visa and who are sponsored by an employer (as I am) must pay for insurance coverage out of pocket even though sometimes the employer pays (in part or in whole) for such insurance, but otherwise you have to pay for it.
The costs in this case are higher, about one hundred Australian dollars a month, and the basic insurance normally covers hospital admission, surgeries, some ambulance rides and a family doctor, known here as a GP (general practitioner).
As I previously mentioned, Medicare does not cover the cost of the ambulance, while some private insurances (depending on the package chosen) can cover the costs of the ambulance for a limited number. Indeed, if you have to call an ambulance and you are not covered by insurance that include this cost, you will receive a fairly high bill, starting from $400 for the call alone, plus a surcharge for every kilometer between the location and the hospital!
You’d better take a taxi, I say.
For general check ups, or if you want to do a check such as blood tests etc, you can contact the GP closest to you, for emergencies the number to call here is 000 which connects you to the Police, the Fire Fighters or the Medical Emergency services.
The call is normally held in English but I have heard that you can communicate your language and you are put in contact with a special translation service designed for foreign citizens. They seem to have more than one hundred languages on offer through an interpretation service over the phone.
In Sydney, there is a website on which, just by entering your postcode or area, you can get a list of the nearest hospitals and waiting times in the emergency ward...cool, isn’t it?
I, luckily, haven’t used any emergency services yet but, from my hospital experience I can tell that the Australian medical services seem to be efficient and well organised.