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- What is Medicare?
What is Medicare?
The Australian Government provides free or subsidised medical and hospital services through Medicare to Australian citizens and permanent residents, and people who meet certain requirements (e.g. visitors from some other countries). The government sets fees for the medical services it subsidises, which are listed on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).
The fees are known as schedule fees and the Medicare benefit for out-of-hospital services is usually 85–100% of that schedule fee.
Some GPs and specialists accept the Medicare benefit as full payment for a service, and you will not have to pay anything. This is called bulk-billing. Many doctors do not bulk-bill, so you will have to pay the difference between the Medicare benefit and the consultation fee. You may be able to find doctors who bulk-bill their services, by visiting healthdirect.gov.au/australian-health-services.
Many doctors charge more than the schedule fee. The difference between the schedule fee and the doctor’s fee is called a “gap payment”. Note that private health insurance does not help cover the gap fee for doctors’ consultations in the community (only in hospitals). If a health service is not listed on the MBS, you will have to pay the whole fee.
What Medicare covers
It covers hospital care when admitted as a public patient to a public hospital, and visits to GPs, specialists and optometrists. Medicare may cover the cost of certain medical supplies (e.g. breast prostheses, stoma supplies). There are also programs to help with the cost of other services, such as visits to a psychologist or allied health professionals. Talk to your GP to see if you are eligible.
What Medicare doesn’t cover
It doesn’t cover ambulance services (funding and costs vary according to the state or territory in which you live and may be covered by your private health insurance), dental care (with exceptions), private home nursing services, and other services.
Medicare Safety Nets
This program can help reduce how much you have to pay for some out-of-hospital services. Once your out-of-pocket costs add up to a certain amount (called the threshold) during a calendar year, Medicare will pay you a higher benefit for some services until the end of that year.
Individuals with no dependants do not need to register for Medicare Safety Nets as Medicare automatically keeps a total of your expenses. Couples and families, however, must register for Medicare Safety Nets, even if you are all listed on the same Medicare card. For details, call Medicare on 132 011 or visit Services Australia.
Podcast: Coping with a cancer diagnosis
Prof Sarah Lewis, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, NSW; Kevin Bloom, Senior Social Worker, Haematology and Bone Marrow Transplant, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Danielle Curnoe, Consumer; Alana Fitzgibbon, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Gastro-Intestinal Cancers, Cancer Services, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; Hall & Wilcox (law firm); Johanna Jordaan, Consumer; Dr Deme Karikios, Medical Oncologist, Nepean Cancer and Wellness Centre, Nepean Hospital, NSW; Melissa Lawrie, Breast Cancer Clinical Nurse, Cancer Services, Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service, QLD; Jacqueline Lesage, Consumer Reviewer, Cancer Voices NSW; McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, VIC; Louise Pellerade, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Andrew Potter, Consumer; Siân Slade, PhD Candidate, Nossal Institute for Global Health and Non-Executive Director (health, disability sectors), VIC; Paula Watt, Clinical Psychologist, WOMEN Centre, WA.
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