Australia is recognised for its excellent medical services and health care system. Most Australians are covered by a national health insurance system – Medicare – which subsidises some of the cost of visits to general practitioners (GPs) and medical specialists. Many Australians also take out private health insurance to supplement their Medicare cover. Find out more about Medicare from the Department of Human Services. Visitors to Australia are not usually covered under the Medicare system. International students in Australia are required to purchase temporary health insurance, find out more about Overseas Student Health Cover.
General health information - hotline
The Queensland Government provides a 24-hour health information phone service for the cost of a local call (calls from mobiles may be charged more). Call 13 HEALTH or 13 43 25 84 to speak to qualified staff who can help with your health inquiry and refer you to appropriate help. Find out more about 13HEALTH.
Seeing a doctor
For visits to most GPs at medical centres you need to make an appointment first. For 24-hour medical centres you can just drop in. There are also mobile doctor services available where the doctor will visit you in your home, see Townsville and Cairns medical services and Brisbane medical services.
If the medical centre is ‘bulk billing’ and you have a Medicare card, you will not need to pay anything. If the doctor is not bulk billing, you need to pay for your consultation and can claim a proportion of the charge back from Medicare.
A GP may refer you for blood tests, x-rays, scans or a visit a specialist doctor. Ask your GP about costs for these services.
International students can visit an Allianz Global Assistance direct billing medical centre and the bill will be sent directly to the insurer. For other GP services you must pay for your visit and submit a claim to your insurer. See International student medical and emergency services.
Your GP may give you a prescription for medication. You need take the prescription to a pharmacy and pay for the medication over the counter. If there is a generic brand of the medication available that is cheaper, the pharmacist will inform you. International students should keep their receipts for medication, as they may be able to claim for some costs from their OSHC insurer.
Visiting a hospital
Hospital accident and emergency departments are busy places with lengthy waiting times to see a doctor. Services at public hospitals in Australia are free for Medicare card holders.
If you are an international student and you need surgery, your OSHC insurance will cover you for emergency surgery (but not for any pre-existing conditions). The Queensland Government has information about going to hospital in Queensland.
Seeing a dentist
Private dentists charge for visits. If you have ‘extras’ on your private health insurance you will be covered for part of the cost of your visit. International students can add ‘extras’ to their OSHC insurance to cover dental services. When you make an appointment you can ask for information about fees. Students in Cairns can visit the JCUDental clinic for affordable treatment.
Seeing an optician
Eye tests are free for Medicare card holders. If you have ‘extras’ on your private health insurance will be covered for part of the cost of glasses, contact lenses or other optical services.