The Best Options For International Health Insurance As An Expat In Australia?

Australia is a stunning country known for its high standard of living. This stable and culturally diverse nation has become the promised land for people from many nationalities. And with expatriates making up 29.1% of the country’s population in 2021, it’s a top choice for those seeking an excellent quality of life.

And one of the biggest draws for so many people flocking to Australia is its exceptional healthcare system.

In this article, we look closer at the options available to expats for seeking health insurance in Australia.

International Health Insurance As An Expat In Australia

Understanding the Australian Healthcare System

Australia’s healthcare system is one of the most comprehensive and competitive in the world. It offers a wide range of services for its citizens, permanent residents, as well as people from other countries with mutual agreements with the country.

And its benefits span an impressive scope of general health to preventive maintenance that treats basic to complex health conditions.

Here’s an overview of the two main healthcare systems available in Australia:

Public Healthcare System

This is a healthcare system that Australians can avail of for free, or if there are any costs involved, they are subsidized at a much lower price. Some essential components of Australia’s public healthcare system include community-based services, public hospitals, and other health organizations owned and operated by Australia or its territories.

Australians can usually access this through tax-funded Medicare, a health system sponsored by Australia’s different government branches — local, state, and federal.

Medicare has been Australia’s primary universal healthcare system for more than three decades. It covers all costs incurred in public hospitals as well as the expenses of other healthcare services, such as services provided by medical specialists and general practitioners, community nurses, and even basic dental services for kids.

Medicare also includes the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) that allows people to purchase their prescribed medicines at cheaper than the market price. Through PBS, one pays a lower price because you only pay a portion of the actual cost while the Australian government shoulders the rest.

Private Healthcare System

These are health services that you can avail of through health care providers and organizations that are owned and operated by private sectors. In other words, the Australian Government does not, in any way, provide direct funding for these healthcare services.

Generally, Australians who have their health insurance premiums or who can pay directly after receiving treatment can opt for the private healthcare system.

However, it should also be noted that anyone who needs medical attention in Australia will be accommodated and treated. The only difference would be whether the assistance is covered by Medicare, private insurance, or paid for in cash.

Eligibility of Expats for Medicare

Medicare is automatically available for all Australians and even permanent residents.

If you are an expat and have earned your permanent residence, you will also benefit from Medicare.

But this does not apply to all foreigners who visit the country. To be eligible for Medicare, you need to meet certain conditions. Expats from some nationalities can also avail of Medicare sooner than others.

Australia has the Reciprocal Healthcare Agreements or RHCA, through which expats from specific countries are eligible to apply for Medicare as soon as they arrive in Australia.

Australia has the RHCA with 11 countries: Belgium, Netherlands, Finland, Malta, New Zealand, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Slovenia, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

Expats from any other country must first secure a permanent residence status first or purchase private healthcare insurance.

Expats who only carry a working or student visa are not eligible for Medicare. Part of the requirements when applying and getting approved for these visas is having your own private health care insurance.

Why International Health Insurance is Essential for Expats

For expats, investing in international health insurance should be one of your priorities. By definition, healthcare insurance that falls under the bucket of expatriate insurance is intended for individuals or families living in Australia either temporarily or for an extended time (more than 12 months) due to work or school.

Healthcare is expensive in most countries, and global health insurance can be a safety net when you need medical aid.

Here are some major benefits of health insurance for expats:

#1. All-inclusive Coverage

Whether you’re staying in Australia for three months or three years, healthcare insurance can be extremely beneficial as international health insurances provide continuous coverage as you move from one country to another.

This insurance includes an extensive network of doctors, medical professionals, and hospitals that can provide you with round-the-clock treatment. From minor medical concerns to significant emergencies, you will be accommodated internationally without having to pay out of pocket.

#2. Straightforward Billing

Having international health insurance simplifies the entire billing process, which also makes it easier to deal with claim processes.

You won’t have to pay cash or claim for reimbursement; the insurance company supporting your financial health coverage will settle the bill with the health facility or medical provider that provided you with treatment.

#3. Global Customer Service Support

The customer service team of international health insurance providers understands that their clients are from diverse nationalities. Because of this, they ensure that they provide 24/7 customer support for all insured, with customer service associates skilled in communicating in various languages.

You don’t need to wait and adjust to the US or Australia’s hours of operation, as you can quickly get in touch with an associate who can assist you with your concerns.

Different Types of Health Insurance Available to Expats

Having international medical insurance can provide expats with the comfort that they are medically covered and have ready access to some of the best medical facilities in Australia.

If you are ready to invest in health insurance as an expat in Australia, it’s important that you learn about all the options available and how to choose the best one for your medical needs.

There are two main solutions available for expats seeking health insurance in Australia.

#1. 1st Dollar Policies

This type of healthcare coverage that private companies provide covers the health expenses from the first dollar (or euro) you spend — hence, the name. This insurance is not dependent on compulsory membership and is by far the most recommended insurance for expatriates.

This type of insurance also enables expats to work with associates who communicate in their native language, which is crucial as it allows one to understand their medical condition and what’s at stake. And with a number of companies offering 1st Dollar Policies, partnerships with different health networks can be assured.

Pros of 1st Dollar Policies

  • Straightforward management: It involves a single point of contact, so you don’t have to deal with different people simultaneously, which can be confusing and frustrating. The reimbursement process is also faster.
  • No deductibles: The insurer will assume the payment for a valid insurable incident. You, as the client, won’t have to pay for anything.

Cons of 1st Dollar Policies

  • Higher premium: Given that the insurer takes on a higher and unknown risk, it’s possible that clients may have to pay a higher premium.
  • Opting out of your country’s social security: When you avail of the 1st Dollar Policy, you have to sever your ties with your native country’s health services. When you return to your country, you’d have to re-affiliate accordingly.

#2. Social Security

Some countries, like the US, provide Social Security coverage to their citizens and residents when they move to another country. This also applies to expats in Australia.

The advantage of using your home country’s social security while living in Australia is that it will continuously cover your pre-existing conditions. It will also ensure that you get medical treatment as needed.

However, a major disadvantage of social security is that reimbursements are usually limited because the costs are converted to the equivalent charges in your home country. And when you compare the healthcare services and treatment in Australia, your social security financial coverage won’t be enough. So, there’s a good chance that you’ll have to pay some of the costs upfront.

So, before deciding to move out of your home country, it’s a good idea to check whether social security is an option for you and what you need to do to avail of its health coverage. It will make your transition and stay in Australia much easier and uncomplicated.

Factors to Consider when Choosing a Health Insurance Plan

Investing in an international health insurance plan needs a lot of consideration and thought. You have to ensure that your health insurance plan will meet your medical needs as and when needed.

With this in mind, here are some factors you need to consider before making your decision:

Geographic Coverage

Usually, the insurance companies have a list of countries they support. And it is up to you to check if, for example, Australia is included on the list or if any prospective destinations within the next 12 months are included.

You also need to check the comprehensive list of healthcare providers affiliated with the health insurance plan. It’ll allow you to be more confident that you are covered and will receive medical assistance wherever you are located.

Benefits coverage

Different insurance plans will offer different types of benefits. Check whether the insurance plan covers inpatient and outpatient care, preventative support, emergency responses, and assistance like ambulance transport.

Reviewing your prospective plan’s benefits will give you more detailed information on what’s included in the plan, so you’ll know what you need to prepare financially.

Customer service assistance

Don’t overlook the customer service of an insurance company; you never know when you’ll need assistance from their associates. Receiving answers and solutions readily regarding medical coverage, claims, and other inquiries, regardless of location, is an invaluable part of your healthcare plan’s coverage.

Cost and other fees

Make a list of all international health insurance companies offering competitive pricing to determine which one you can afford to commit to in the long run. You also have to consider possible deductibles and out-of-pocket expenditures for each possible plan.


Often, you will need to make some changes to your international health insurance. So, look for a plan that offers some flexibility. Your insurance should be able to adapt with minimal to zero price changes if any modifications are needed. The coverage and pricing should offer you room to negotiate.


Australia has one of the best standards for healthcare, not just for its citizens and residents but also for the many expats in the country. So, whether you choose Medicare or private international health insurance, you can rest assured that the level of healthcare you receive in Australia will be of the highest quality.