Australia has reciprocal healthcare agreements (RHCAs) operating with the following countries: Finland, Italy, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the Kingdom of Belgium and the Republic of Slovenia.

Visitors from these countries are entitled to medical treatment on terms no less favourable than would apply to a resident of Australia.

More information on status of RHCAs

The terms of the various agreements differ. In general, the agreements provide visiting residents of either country with reciprocal access to the public health system of the other country for any immediate, medically necessary treatment that is required before returning home.

Medically necessary treatment means any ill-health or injury that occurs while in Australia and requires immediate treatment and attention, and is clinically required for diagnosis, alleviation or care of the condition. This may occur as an inpatient or outpatient of a public hospital, as a public patient.

The agreements do not cover:

  • treatment for which there is no immediate medical necessity
  • treatment in a private hospital or treatment in a public hospital as a private patient
  • those entering for the specific purpose of receiving medical treatment 
  • ambulance cover
  • dental care
  • medical evacuation to home country
  • funerals
  • elective treatment
  • some visitors on student visas
  • some diplomats, consular officers and their families.

All eligible visitors are encouraged to enroll with Medicare either prior to receiving treatment, or as soon as possible thereafter.

Pharmaceutical benefits scheme

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) also provides for visitors from other countries where there is an RHCA with Australia.

Eligibility for renal dialysis services under RHCAs

Access to renal dialysis services under the RHCAs varies across jurisdictions. Generally, renal dialysis is not specifically covered under RHCAs, but individual jurisdictions make their own determinations. The Department of Health and Human Services has developed a policy on access to dialysis services for visiting residents from countries with which Australia has an RHCA (see Hospital circular 22/11) .

This policy took effect from 1 November 2011 and applies to all visitors from Finland, Italy, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Sweden, The Netherlands, the Kingdom of Belgium, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.

Eligibility and period of cover remain the same as those required for treatment as a public patient in a public hospital.

Entitlements

The department has determined that dialysis treatment will be provided to visitors from RHCA countries as public patients on the following conditions:

  • Eligible visitors covered by RHCAs are entitled to 12 procedures over a three month period of stay.
  • Access to renal dialysis services will be based on clinical need and service capacity of the health service providing renal dialysis services.
  • Eligible visitors are required to make arrangements with the health service prior to their arrival to ensure that renal dialysis services are available and can be provided.

Related information

VAED manual

Circular 22/11

Circular 17/11

Circular 23/09