Australia has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK – which means that if any of us Pommies get hit by a car then they don’t make us pay for our own hospital bills (we do the same for them). They do however make you pay for your own ambulance – yeah – sounds strange to me too. Actually, in some states you don’t have to pay for your own ambulance (Tasmania and Queensland) – or more strictly speaking if you RESIDE in those states you don’t have to pay for your own ambulances – if you are from NSW and get knocked down in Tasmania that’s your own lookout. (This is my interpretation of the situation – please correct me if I am wrong)
Anyway – it’s not an anti-Pommie measure – Australians have to pay for their own ambulances too – or as is more often the case, get ambulance insurance. More about the intense confusion that makes up medical insurance here later…
As a pommie, you are in theory entitled to Medicare treatment as soon as you arrive, but if you don’t want to pay up front you need to apply for a Medicare Card. Sometimes even with a Medicare card you pay up front and claim it back, and sometimes you don’t get it all back. It depends if who you go and see does a thing called ‘Bulk Billing‘ – if they do you don’t need to pay up front.
Sounds confusing?! THATS BECAUSE IT IS! But hey – it’s confusing for Australian’s too – they have to use the system too and many of them ‘top-up’ their health provision with private insurance of some kind (dental, optical, extras, ambulance, public hospital etc etc) You can also be treated in a public hospital as a private patient, or in a private hospital as a private patient, or in a public hospital as a public patient. Still confused?
Anyways – cutting a very long and beauracratic story short – we went in to apply for our Medicare cards, and WERE TURNED AWAY! Because for some reason the Medicare people don’t have access to the Electronic Visa Checking that I mentioned earlier. WHY?! Only the government must know this, but we had to go back the next day with a copy of our Visa grant letter, before they would let us apply.
10 – 14 days later we were Medicare Carded up! We pommies get special yellow coloured cards to show that we are not full-on proper Medicare recipients (no elective treatment for example).