Private/Public Health Care
Australia has both a public system and a private system for hospital care.
The public system (universal health cover) is run by government Medicare, available to all Australians, and is paid for with tax money.
In contrast, private healthcare is run by private health insurance companies, has private hospitals, and is not part of the government program.
Whichever system you are part of, you are guaranteed to receive an excellent level of medical service. in fact, there are times when private patients and up having surgery in a public hospital, because the private hospital was full. However, the opposite cannot happen. If you do not have private health cover, you cannot be treated in a private hospital.
Private cover is an optional choice. All Australians pay into the public health care system through their tax. It is then up to the individual whether or not to also pay into the private healthcare system. In that case, you are paying the tax AND you are paying the healthcare premiums.
Another benefit of private cover is known as EXTRAS. Extras provide full or partial refunds for dental treatments, eye glasses, alternative therapies like massages and physiotherapy, etc.
Generally, it is the higher paid Australians how take out private health cover. The premiums (fees) can be quite expensive. In addition, if you earn over a certain amount of money each year, and do not have private cover, you may have to pay a 'Medicare Levy surcharge'. To avoid this, many people take out the lowest level of private cover that will qualify to not pay the extra tax.
Doctors are paid 85% of the set fee for a service (i.e. a check up) directly by the government's Medicare program through the patient's Medicare card. This is known as BULK BILLING. By doing it is way, the doctor does not have to deal with billing and debt collection. They are paid a little less, but have no headaches!
On the other hand, a doctor can also charge an additional fee from the patient, and there is no limit on what the doctor can charge, with the patient paying the bill and then usually having to go to a Medicare office to get the refund they are entitled to.
Bulk billing is common, but in more wealthy areas, and regional areas with a high demand for doctors, paying the extra fee is common.
When you choose your Aussie doctor, ask if the office bulk bills. If not, and you do not want to pay extra fees, shop around!