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The low-down on Medicare in Australia

Medicare is an Australian government service that helps to reduce the cost of health care and medicines in Australia. Most people who live in Australia can use the service. Question is, what can you do with your little green card once you’ve got it
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Medicare in a nutshell

If you’re eligible, Medicare gives you free or subsidised access to some medical services, free treatment and accommodation in public hospitals, plus lower cost prescriptions. It’s all about making health care more affordable for more Australians.

Medicare is managed by the Australian Government’s Department of Human Services. These guys are the ones footing the bill when you visit the doctor or hospital.

The amount they pay for medical services is listed in a behemoth set of documents called the Medicare Benefits Schedule. In general, Medicare pays for 85% of the schedule fee for any listed procedure; or 75% if you are a private patient.

Some doctors bulk bill for their services, which means they accept the Medicare benefit (or, 85% of the schedule fee) as full payment. This means you don’t have to pay a thing.

Others may charge more than the schedule fee, which means you can be left out of pocket a little more. If you’re not sure, you can always ask before you visit your health professional.

How to get a Medicare card

You can get your own Medicare card from the age of 15, although you can stay on your family’s Medicare card until you decide to get your own card.

There are detailed instructions on how to enrol in Medicare on the Medicare website. Basically, you’ll need to complete some paperwork and take it, along with a certified copy of your birth certificate or passport, to a Medicare service centre.

Once approved, at the Medicare service centre, you should be given a Medicare number. You can start using this number straight away. But it might take up to a month for your little green card to arrive in the mail.

Other things you need to know about Medicare

If you make frequent visits to your GP, or have a medical condition that requires a lot of tests, then Medicare can look after you. The Medicare Safety Net is designed to give people like you a higher benefit once you reach a certain threshold.

Did you know that some medicines are covered by Medicare? It’s all part of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. So next time you go to collect a script from the pharmacist, check whether you can claim the medicine under the scheme – it could save you a lot of money. You can check which medicines are on the PBS here.

Medicare plus private health equals more cover

While your little green card is a ticket to great savings at the doctor’s surgery, many people choose to pair their Medicare card with private health insurance to give them more options – and more potential savings – on health care.

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