Medicare is available to Australian citizens and most permanent residents.
Medicare only covers part of the cost of seeing a GP or specialist (or the full cost if they bulk bill), and most prescription medicines. It also provides free treatment and accommodation in public hospitals. As a public patient in a public hospital you’ll be treated by hospital-appointed doctors and subject to wait lists for non-emergency treatment.
Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of ambulances, glasses/contact lenses or hearing aids. It also excludes therapies such as speech pathology, osteopathy and remedial massage. This is where Private health insurance can fill the gaps and give you more choice about your treatment.
The main difference between the two is that Medicare pays for patients to be treated in the public health system and private health insurance pays for patients to be treated in the private health system.
The differences between the two systems include how much patients pay for treatment (the gap between doctors’ and hospitals’ fees and the benefit from Medicare or insurance), how long they wait for treatment, what doctor treats them, and even what they pay in tax each year.
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