Reciprocal health care agreements
Australia has reciprocal health care agreements with 11 countries. These countries provide some emergency care to Australians.
Most agreements specify the care must be urgent and medically necessary. They usually need a co-payment from the patient.
Countries with reciprocal health care agreements
The Department of Human Services publishes details about Australia's agreements. This includes what services they cover. Australia has reciprocal health care agreements with:
- New Zealand
- the Republic of Ireland
- United Kingdom
If you travel to a country without an agreement, you're not covered. If you need medical assistance, you or your insurer must pay the full cost of treatment. Many hospitals won't treat you until you, your family or travel insurer pay upfront.
Reciprocal Health Agreements vs travel insurance
A reciprocal health care agreement is not a substitute for insurance. You still need travel insurance.
Ensure your policy covers you for medical evacuations. These often cost 1000s of dollars. Evacuations aren't covered by reciprocal health care agreements. Without appropriate insurance, you or your family could be stuck with the bill.
What's covered under reciprocal health care agreements
- Reciprocal health care agreements can cover or subsidise some emergency medical costs. This is usually for urgent treatment that can't wait until you get home.
- Some agreements can cover other costs. This can include local medical transport, medication and specialist services.
- Each country with an agreement decides what they'll cover or subsidise. We can't intervene in their processes or policies.
- The treating doctor determines if your condition is a 'medical necessity'. The Australian Government can't influence the doctor's decision.
- Subsidised care differs from free care. If you receive medical assistance under an agreement, you may need to still pay.
What isn't covered by reciprocal health care agreements
Reciprocal health care agreements:
- do not cover all medical situations, they're usually for urgent care that can't wait until you get home
- do not pay total medical costs, most expect you pay a percentage of it (a co-payment)
- do not pay for you to get private health care, you'll have to pay the full cost
- do not cover costs for any non-subsidised medicines or treatments
- do not cover non-urgent medical needs, you'll have to pay
- are not a substitute for travel insurance
You, or your travel insurer, must pay for any treatment not covered by the agreement. If you need money overseas, talk to your family and friends. The Australian Government can't pay your bill, or loan you money.
Travelling to a country with a reciprocal health care agreement
- Find out what medical services the agreement will cover.
- Confirm what costs you'll have to cover. Often it's a percentage of the total service cost, which could still be expensive.
- Check if there's variations in what's covered in different parts of the country.
- Find out if they have exclusions or conditions for certain groups. This can include dual nationals and people studying, living or working there.
- See if there's eligibility requirements. Find out how to prove you're eligible.
- Check if there's an application process. You may have to apply for subsidised services under the agreement.
See the Department of Human Services for more on reciprocal health care agreements.
- Reciprocal health agreements aren't a substitute for travel insurance.
- Find out about vaccinations and preventative health measures.
- Learn about travelling with medications and medical equipment.
- Find out what to do if you're overseas and need medical assistance.
- See the Department of Human Services for more on reciprocal health care agreements.
- Read the Department of Human Services' information about which countries may help cover the cost of medicines.
Read our advice on COVID-19, including leaving Australia, trying to get home, arriving in Australia and staying overseas.
Medical tourism is when you go overseas for medical treatment. Before you go, gather the information you need. Make informed choices about your medical procedure.