Living in Melbourne?
Healthcare for Expats in Melbourne
Immunization and General Health Tips
In addition to housing (which the first part of this guide to living in Melbourne describes), healthcare is another important topic for expatriates. As far as common diseases go, the Melbourne area is relatively riskless. During the past few years, though, there have been several small-scale epidemics of pertussis (whooping cough) among kids in the province of Victoria. If you are an expat with children, make sure that their immunization is up to date.
As far as vaccinations in general are concerned, get your normal booster shots, especially for tetanus and polio. Elderly expats should ask for flu shots as well, and medical workers are required to receive immunization for hepatitis. All expatriates should remember to pack the right clothing for Melbourne’s volatile weather, as well as enough sunscreen, UV protective clothing, and hats to shield themselves from the harsh Australian sun.
Medicare: Public Health Insurance in Melbourne
There are several ways of getting decent insurance cover as a foreign resident in Melbourne. First of all, you might have access to Medicare, Australia’s government-funded healthcare system.
Medicare pays for all treatment at public hospitals. It covers at least part of the fees for consultations, medical tests, check-up exams, and most minor surgeries. Medicare patients pay a reduced price for medication, too. Although Medicare pays for most costs from doctor visits, a co-pay of 7 AUD is required at GP visits. Medicare also does not include dental care and some other treatments, such as cosmetic procedures. Therefore, most people residing in Australia have an additional private insurance to cover the extra costs.
So are you eligible to receive Medicare insurance cover? The following people can apply for Medicare:
- citizens of Australia and New Zealand
- holders of a permanent visa
- visitors from countries that have a reciprocal health agreement with Australia: Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, and the UK.
Private Health Insurance for Melbourne Residents
Unfortunately, most expatriates with temporary visas do not have access to health insurance via Medicare. However, they are usually required to show proof of healthcare cover as part of their visa application. Therefore, they have three options:
- If you are lucky, your Australian employer automatically provides you with a company insurance plan. You need to include written confirmation that describes your company-sponsored health insurance in your visa application.
- You have an international health insurance plan which meets the minimum requirements for Australia. Please remember to enclose a detailed confirmation letter from your insurance provider in your visa application, too.
- You have to get a new health insurance plan for your time in Melbourne. The Overseas Visitors Health Cover website offers detailed advice for temporary residents. For example, when choosing a policy, you should consider waiting periods, restrictions for pre-existing conditions, and pharmaceutical coverage. Furthermore, go for the highest level of hospital cover you can afford so as to avoid unpleasant surprises in the case of major surgeries, accidents, and serious illnesses.
For further information on private health insurance in Australia, please read more on the Australian Government’s website for Private Health Insurance.
Medical Services in the Melbourne Area
In Melbourne proper, there is no need to worry about a lack of decent medical infrastructure. The quality of medical care is generally good, and there are more than enough providers of medical services (except maybe in the rural east):
- GPs (general practitioners) are family doctors for minor ailments and general check-up exams. You can search for GPs and certain specialists (e.g. psychiatrists or pediatricians) via the Victoria Better Health Channel.
- There is an extra database for dentists offered by the Australian Dental Association. When it comes to hospitals, there are over 100 public and private clinics in greater Melbourne. Many of them have A&E departments.
Last but not least, try to remember your emergency numbers while you are living in Melbourne:
- 000 is the free number to call for the fire department, police, or an ambulance. However, ambulance transport is not (!) free in Victoria. The average emergency transport bill is over 1,100 AUD. However if you become a member of Ambulance Victoria (a family pays about 90 AUD per year) you will be exempt from transport fees.
- 1300 60 60 24 offers 24/7 access to a nurse-on-call for minor complaints. If your English should fail you, you can ask for an interpreter.
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