Australia has one of the best healthcare systems in the world: a universal public health insurance plan known as Medicare. For in-patient care, Medicare will cover 100% of the cost. For primary care or services like physical therapy (physiotherapy to Aussies), it will cover roughly 75% of cost. For medications there is a copay of up to $38.30 for each prescription (it's less for seniors) if the medication is covered under Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. If it's not covered you may be responsible for the entire cost. Medicare does not cover dental care, optometry, or ambulance transport.
While Medicare is very good, most citizens "top up" their insurance by also purchasing a private insurance plan.
As an expat on a 457 Visa you don't qualify for Medicare, so you'll need to get private health insurance that covers you and any family members. In fact, you'll need to prove you've got private health insurance to the Department of Immigration before your 457 visa will be approved.
There are a number of big insurers, including Medibank, Bupa, NIB, HCF, and GMBHA, offering this type of coverage. You'll typically see it referenced as Overseas Visitors Health Cover, or OVHC for short. You can have the coverage start once you'll arrive in the country. Once you've procured this coverage, the health insurer will send you a letter confirming your plan which you then provide to the Department of Immigration. It's worth calling out that pre-existing conditions will not be covered by insurance for the first 12 months of coverage.
Most care is still driven through a first visit to a General Practitioner (GP) when something is wrong. They may be able to treat you or they can write a prescription to see a specialist, but you can't go directly to a specialist.
The following countries have healthcare reciprocity agreements with Australia, so workers on a 457 Visa in Australia do qualify for Medicare. These countries fall into three categories:
For all of these categories you will still need to secure private health insurance in order to meet your 457 Visa requirements. Once you arrive in Australia you can enroll in Medicare and apply for an exemption for private insurance with Immigration. If the exemption is granted you can choose to discontinue your OVHC coverage, though it's recommended you still maintain some level of private insurance since it's more comprehensive than Medicare.
HELPFUL HEALTHCARE RESOURCES
Tips from experts on getting health insurance while overseas.
HealthEngine - This handy website lets you search for doctors near you and book an appointment online. It also has patient reviews of doctors and it's even got an app for iPhones and Androids.