Monday, May 10, 2010

The Australian Healthcare System, As I Figure It

Puppie left a comment asking about health insurance in Oz, and I thought that it deserved its own post, since a lot of people have asked me how it works. Disclaimer: this is how I've figured out that it works so far. I could get to Oz and find out I've been mistaken, or that it does not exactly "work" like that, so I will continue to update.

Nationalized healthcare in Australia (called Medicare) is available to all citizens and permanent residents. About 1.5% of your income taxes go towards Medicare (we will have to pay Australian income taxes, btw). If you have access to Medicare, you also have the option to choose supplemental private health insurance, which pays for more stuff and takes some of the burden from Medicare. The Australian government encourages people with high incomes to share the burden by charging a tax if you make over a certain amount of money and do not choose to take out private health insurance. The Medicare Levy Surcharge is approximately another 1% of your taxable income.

Now temporary residents, like us, may or may not have access to Medicare. If your country has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia, you have access to Medicare. This mainly includes other nations with nationalized health care, such as New Zealand and the United Kingdom, among others. Unfortunately, the U.S. does not fall under that category, and as a condition for the visa, we are required to take out private health insurance. The health insurance companies provide different Overseas Visitor Plans to meet different needs -- whether you are there on a 3 month working holiday, or on a 4 year Temporary Longstay Visa (ours). The main thing is that we make sure we get the right coverage.

My company does not pay for any healthcare benefits, which I gather is typical, since everyone pays into the national plan. Since we don't have access to Medicare, I think at tax time, we are supposed to get back our 1.5% we have paid into it. We will see how that works. Even so, I think we will be able to get healthcare coverage for $300 a month for the both of us -- which is more expensive than my government plan in the U.S., but competitive with Ethan's healthcare plan.

I do not fully understand how the actual healthcare process works. When I go to the doctor, how much will I pay? What is covered? My new healthcare plan tells me some of that, but just like American health care, it's pretty confusing. So I guess I will have to see how things go when we get there.


Kelly@TearingUpHouses said...

Interesting. Never knew. Are you getting excited yet?! Australia is at the top of my list of places I want to go.


L said...

I find it pretty interesting too, Kelly, since I think this is the direction Obamacare is supposed to go. So I'm hoping it will show me how it's going to work.

My excitement is ebbing a little. I am still in waiting mode, and our house is a mess -- I don't feel any closer than I was 3 weeks ago. I imagine that as I get closer and get more stuff done my excitement will rekindle.