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What is Medicare?

3-minute read

Medicare is the scheme that gives Australian residents access to healthcare. It gives all Australians and some people from overseas a wide range of health and hospital services at no cost or low cost.

How does Medicare work?

To access Medicare, you need to enrol.

If you are eligible, you will get a Medicare number and card.

You can use this card to receive a wide range of medical services. However, not all services are paid for by Medicare.

Medicare card showing family names under a single Medicare number
Medicare card showing family names and individual reference numbers, under a single Medicare number

Are you a carer or helping someone out?

Carers are everyday people who provide unpaid and ongoing care and support to someone they know who has a disability, mental illness, drug or alcohol dependency, chronic condition, terminal illness or who is frail.

Support for carers

Find practical information and useful resources for carers on Carer Gateway. You can also learn more about carers' support and services in your state or territory through Carers Australia.

Medicare cards are issued to people enrolled in Medicare. You can find registration information at the front of the Medicare enrolment form at the Department of Human Services. You use your Medicare card when:

  • making a Medicare claim for a paid or unpaid doctor's account
  • visiting a doctor who bulk bills
  • receiving treatment as a public patient in a public hospital
  • filling a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) prescription at a pharmacy

Most taxpayers pay a Medicare Levy of 2% of their taxable income to help fund Medicare.

How do I register for Medicare?

You can find registration information on how to enrol at Services Australia. If you are aged 15 years or older, you can apply for your own Medicare card, while children under 15 can be listed on their parents' card. Babies born in Australia are automatically enrolled in Medicare.

Who is eligible for Medicare?

You are eligible for Medicare benefits if you:

  • are an Australian or New Zealand citizen
  • are an Australian permanent resident
  • have applied for permanent residency (some conditions apply)
  • are a temporary resident covered by a Ministerial Order
  • are a citizen or permanent resident of Norfolk Island, Cocos Islands, Christmas Island or Lord Howe Island
  • are covered by a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with another country

What does Medicare cover?

If you have a Medicare card, you can get free or lower cost:

  • medical services by doctors, specialists and other health professionals. If your doctor bulk bills, you won’t have to pay for anything
  • hospital treatment
  • many prescription medicines

The benefits (refunds) you receive from Medicare are based on a schedule of fees set by the Australian Government, although doctors can choose to charge more than the set schedule fee. Medicare usually pays:

  • the full schedule fee for general practitioner services
  • 85% of the schedule fee for a specialist
  • 75% of the schedule fee for in-hospital services

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2020


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