Like many things in life, health care is complicated. There are differences among first-world countries on how they handle their healthcare industry. The public health system for Australians is different than the one available to Americans. That doesn’t mean it’s too complex to understand. A few things every Australian resident should know better to understand the basics of their public health system.
Medicare and the Medicare Levy Surcharge
The Australian government provides a level of patient care to all of its citizens in Medicare. It will pay for the majority of healthcare costs that you’ll incur. You can have prescriptions filled, visit medical staff, or even receive specialized patient care. The system is limited to your options in medical care and does have restrictions on people in a certain income range.
If you make over $90,000 a year on your own or over $180,000 combined with a spouse, you might have to pay the medical levy surcharge. It is broken down into 4 different tiers of taxable income. These thresholds were designed to help supplement the federal government expenditure on public health care. The Medicare levy hopes that people who can afford a private health insurer will do so. If a taxpayer doesn’t acquire their own insurer, they’ll be subject to the surcharge or the levy.
Medicare Health Coverage
The health insurance coverage you receive from Medicare guarantees all Australian citizens (and some visitors to their country) access low or no-cost services. You need to have your Medicare card access to hospital treatment, prescription medicines, and medical services by doctors. It will also cover CT scans, X-rays, ultrasounds, and MRI scans. You can find a complete list of available services on the Medical Benefits Schedule (MBS).
This list shows the fee for each service. For prescriptions, you can check the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) to understand the cost breakdown for your medications better. Many of these are at a reduced rate, not 100% free. If you meet the qualifications for a concession card, you can pay a lower amount. Roughly about 50% of the population currently uses the public system strictly.
Private Health Insurance
Though a public hospital will provide quality coverage, there is something to be said for picking your own doctor. Additionally, there are three types of private insurance to consider. The first is hospital insurance. This insurance coverage in private hospitals with private doctors. Again, let’s be clear that the skillset of the person is the same. Nurses don’t have different LPN skills in a public facility than they do in a private one. Medicare has termed certain procedures and specialists as “extras.” These tend to refer to a dentist or eye-doctor and can include costs such as braces or glasses. The last basic type of private coverage is ambulance insurance, which provides help with pay bills associated with riding in emergency vehicles.
Avoiding the Levy
People with higher income will want to know how to avoid paying the levy. Currently, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has designated a hospital policy of $750 for a single and $1500 for a couple. Some exclusions to this would be extras and travel. Double-check with the guidelines to make sure you meet the qualifications to avoid the Levy.
Keys to Remember
There are a few key takeaways to keep in mind. Every citizen is covered through Medicare. There are some additional charges for products in the system, but you can receive an exemption for these, depending on your income. Higher-income earners are encouraged to pay for private health insurance. This is roughly 50% of the population and costs on average $2000 a year.