Learn about all things Medicare related and paying for health services.

What is a Medicare card

When you are going for a medical appointment it is important that you take your Medicare card with you. You use this card to access health services paid for by the Australian government.

Medicare covers the cost of

  • all public hospital clinics
  • treatment as a public patient in a public hospital 
  • not all costs will be fully covered when visiting some health practitioners like optometrists, dentists or physiotherapists, which means you may have to pay out of your own pocket for some health services.

How to apply for a Medicare Card

You can have your own Medicare card if you’re aged 15 or older and enrolled in Medicare. You can get your own Medicare card online or apply for one using a form.

You will receive your card in about 3 to 4 weeks. You can use a digital copy of your Medicare card straight away.

Setting up your online Medicare account

You need to sign in through myGov to set up and use your Medicare online account. 

When you have your Medicare online account, you can use the Express Plus Medicare mobile app. The app makes it easier to manage Medicare and claim online.

If you don’t have one, learn how to create a myGov account.

What is bulk billing?

Bulk billing is when the cost of your doctor’s appointment is completely paid for through Medicare. Some doctors may charge extra and you will be required to pay the gap. 

Specialist doctors or services may ask you to pay at each visit when you see them in their private rooms. You can then claim some of the money back from Medicare.

When you make an appointment with a doctor, ask if they bulk bill and what the out-of-pocket costs may be.

What is private health insurance

Private health insurance is when people contribute money regularly to a health fund that can cover out-of-pocket health expenses that are not covered by Medicare. You do not have to buy private health insurance – it is your choice. 

Private health insurance covers things like private hospital procedures and admissions or allied health services (e.g. physiotherapy, psychology services, occupational therapy). It also generally means less waiting times than in the public health system to see health professionals and access to extras like 24-hour telephone health line. 

Before you buy private health insurance, have a look at what different companies offer and what suits your needs within your budget. There are websites that compare health insurance policies and each company will give you an immediate quote online.

What is the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)

The Australian government subsidises most medicines under the PBS, which means you pay less for your medication. Use your Medicare card to receive the subsidy. 

You may also be entitled to cheaper medicines once you have spent a certain amount of money. Talk with your pharmacist or learn more about the PBS Safety Net

What is a concession or Health Care Card?

This is a card which entitles you to reduced prices for some health services and medicines. The type of concession or health care card you can get depends on your situation.

You may be entitled to a Health Care Card if you receive a government allowance or benefit. Once you turn 16 you will need to reapply. 

Medicare Safety Net

If you need to see a doctor or get tests regularly, you could end up with high medical costs. Medicare Safety Nets can help to lower your out of pocket costs.

This means Medicare will give you a higher amount back . They calculate the Safety Net each calendar year, 1 January to 31 December.

Keep in mind, your doctor’s visit or test will still cost the same.

Find out more about healthcare costs

Last updated Thursday 11th April 2024