Health in Australia

Let’s not beat around the bush here!  Australia is a dangerous place to live if you are not aware of the dangers.  Here we touch on just the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully it will help you stay healthy in Australia.

Wildlife

Yes, Australia has some of the most dangerous animals, sea creatures and insects the world has ever seen, from the brown snake to the cane toad, but with a handful of tips you will hopefully never have to be introduced to any of these face to face.

  • If you see any snakes, spiders etc… LEAVE THEM ALONE
  • Always wear shoes, socks and jeans in the bush
  • If working around your home, just check the area first for webs etc…
  • Turn your shoes upside down and shake them before putting them on
  • Check your sleeping bag at night
  • Always use a torch at night when moving about
  • Never swim alone in the sea
  • Never pick anything up off the ground or the bottom of the sea

Now, in most rural places, chances are you will never see anything that will come close to hurting you.  Remember they are more scared of you and will simply try to protect themselves if you approah them, so just leave them alone

Weather

In a way, Australia’s weather is probably more dangerous than it’s flora and fauna.  With very high temperatures almost all year round, the sun has the power to knock down the toughest of people.  Here are our key tips

  • Always carry around a bottle of water with you and keep well hydrated
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat (or any type of hat at the least) to keep the sun off your head and neck
  • Never spend the whole day in the garden working and take regular breaks
  • Be aware of you limits….if your feeling unwell, get inside, rest and drink water

The key tip here is BE CAREFUL

Medical Assistance

In Australia, you do not need to register with a doctor like you should in the UK.  Simply phone for an appointment and turn up at the correct time.  If it is the first time at that practice, you will need to fill out a form just so that they have your details on their system.

Medicare

Australia doesn’t have a free health system like the NHS.  It has a Medicare system based on America’s own Medicare system.  With this system, when you go to see your doctor, you will pay a charge there and then to the practice and then you need to go to a Medicare office and claim money back in the form of a rebate.  Some practices and doctors offer what is called Bulk Billing, which in itself seems to be a mystery on how it works (even to Australians).  With bulk billing, it essentially means you end up not needing to go to Medicare for your rebate as the practice takes this off their bill automatically.  If however, you need to see a specialist for example, the specialist will charge you the full amount and you still need to go to Medicare to get your rebate

Private Health Insurance

Medicare will get you rebates for simple things such as seeing the doctor for a consultation, going for a scan etc…  But it does not cover you for such things as dentists, hosptialisation etc…  In these cases private health insurance can be bought to cover some of the costs.  The cost of cover rises as you get older, but there is no requirement for a medical before hand.

All of the private health companies will have waiting periods before cover comes into force.  For example, you may not be able to claim for major dental work for the first 12 months of cover.  Also, there will also be caps in place to limit the amount you can claim for in a year.  Please check carefully the restrictions and caps on the different areas of cover before deciding which company and what level of cover to go for.

There are dozens of private health companies in Australia, but here are a few of the bigger ones

Private Health Insurance Rebate and Medicare Levy Surcharge

For alot of people, the cost of having private health insurance will be too much.  However, the Austrlian Government offer a rebate to individuals who have taken private health cover and if you earn alot of money you can get away with not paying the Medicare Levy Surcharge (calculated at 1% of your taxable income for 2008).  Depending on your income, the rebates combined can infact be more than you actually pay for the cover in the first place!  Talk to an accountant to see what your options are

Dentists

As mentioned earlier, dental work is not covered by Medicare.  Dentists here in Australia are expensive compared to the UK, so private health insurance is a must if you know that you’ll be needing dental work in the near future (not forgetting the waiting periods on your private health insurance).  Whilst the dentists are more expensive, they do provide an excellent service (from our own experiences) and, in our view, good value for money (private health cover rebate applied of course).  Like the doctors, you don’t need to register with any particular dentist, just fill out a form for their records.

Hospitals

From our own experiences with the hospitals in Queensland, we can only say good things!  They were clean friendly and quick!  So quick that I waited in the emergency waiting room for under 10 minutes before being seen!  With private health insurance you have options as whether to go private (if you are covered and not in the waiting period for your cover) or public (public will not cost you anything).  If you do go private, please be sure first of any charges and excesses that you will incur, such as ambulance use

Emergency Department

Both public and private hospitals have emergengy departments, but not all private hospitals have them.  One key thing to be aware of is that whilst private hospitals have emergency departments, you will NOT be covered under your private health plan to use them for free.  The purpose of the private emergency wards is to save you the wait in the public emergency departments, but you do have to pay extra for this service.  As an example a recent visit to a private emergency department in Brisbane cost us $266.  For this cost we did not have to wait one minute and we were seen too immediately by a doctor and had treatment (including ultrasound) all within 1 1/2 hours.  Now of this $266 we can claim anything over $200 back through Medicare!!  Yes that’s Medicare and not your private health fund.  Confused??  We were!!  The thing to remember here is that if you do not want to wait, you don’t have to, but it will cost you some cash for the privilege.  The emergency department legally have to inform you of any costs that you will incur BEFORE you are admitted, so please listen and read their document carefully to be sure!