When you come to Australia with a temporary visa, regardless of the length of your stay, you are required to have private medical insurance. You will not be entitled to Medicare, which is the health service provided by the Australian Government, unless you are a Citizen or Permanent Resident. Some countries, however, such as the United Kingdom, do have mutual agreements with Medicare and therefore you might have the right to these benefits.
When we came to Australia, we arranged for private medical insurance as this was one of the requirements for our visa. When it came time to complete our first tax return we applied for the Medicare Levy Exemption, as we had not have had any benefits, and this was denied. Very surprised we asked for an explanation and were advised that because as we had lived in the UK for two and half years prior to moving here (despite not having British nationality) we were entitled to Medicare. We found that quite bizarre and visited a Medicare office where we were actually given a Medicare card with the expiry date being the one in our visa!
On the immigration website it did not say anything to this effect, stating that only citizens of countries with the mutual agreement would be entitled to Medicare benefits. We then called immigration advising that we had been given the card and asking if we could cancel the private health insurance that we had been paying for over a year. They were happy for us to cancel the insurance policy but we felt that the information was not clear and that we had poured money down the drain. After all, the insurance just covered the same services that our Medicare card covers now.
I do hope that by posting this, some other people new to Australia might avoid falling prey to this misinformation like we have. I love my green Medicare card as it makes me feel more of a local, lol, but I would have loved it even more if I had been given the correct information by immigration from the start 😉
Please note that Medicare does not cover your health expenses completely and there are a few services, such as orthodontics for example, which are not covered. Most people will have a private health insurance policy to complement their basic Medicare benefits. However, this is a choice and not a legal requirement for foreigners with permanent residency or other Medicare entitlements due to their country of origin’s mutual agreements.