Travel insurance and Australia’s Reciprocal Healthcare Agreements

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Just under 50 per cent of young Aussies believe the government will help to cover their medical bills overseas, while over half believe that the government will help them to get home in the case of a medical emergency – neither of which is true.

While Australian travellers are covered by various Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) in effect across NZ, the UK, Ireland and Italy, it pays to know the limit of this cover, and when you need travel insurance.


What am I entitled to?

For the first 12 months after your arrival in the Republic of Ireland, Australians can access immediately necessary medical treatment under the country’s public health care system. This includes emergency hospital treatment for the same fee as an Irish non-medical card holder, as well as the same monetary assistance for prescription drugs and medicines as Irish residents at a maximum fee of €144 per month.

You are also eligible for maternity and infant care at a subsidised rate.

How am I covered?

Upon presentation of your passport and evidence of Australian residence, you will be able to benefit from treatment covered by the Health Service Executive (HSE), Ireland’s public health service scheme.

What is not covered

Private medical services, as well as accommodation in either private or public hospital are not covered by the RHCA. GP visits and pre-arranged or elective treatment are also not covered.


What am I entitled to?

Australia’s RHCA with Italy enables visitors to receive medical treatment at public hospitals as well as other authorised hospitals and clinics at a subsidised rate. For up to six months from your date of arrival, this includes specialist services and immediately necessary dental treatment.

How am I covered?

While you are in Italy, your treatment is covered by the Servizio Sanitaria Nazionale (the National Health Service). If you are in need of medical attention, you can find your nearest health centre, or Unita Sanitaria Locale by enquiring at tourist offices, hotels and police stations, or by consulting a telephone directory.

What isn’t covered?

You may need to cover the costs of some medicines as well as tests and diagnostics during your stay in Italy.

New Zealand

What am I entitled to?

During your stay in New Zealand, you are entitled to immediately necessary medical treatment, pharmaceuticals and maternity care.

How am I covered?

Australians on a temporary visit can access subsidised medical services in New Zealand for a period of two years from their date of arrival. Acute hospital care in emergency circumstances as well as some related treatment for your injury is covered by New Zealand’s universal accident insurance scheme, the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC).

What isn’t covered?

The RHCA does not cover publicly funded transport by ambulance, either in case of emergency or non-injury. GP visits and other primary care services are not covered. You may also have to pay for GP-prescribed medications at a part charge.

United Kingdom

What am I entitled to?

Australian visitors to the UK are eligible to receive immediately necessary medical treatment from an National Health Service (NHS) doctor during the first six months after their arrival. This includes related accommodation, medicine and nursing care you receive in a public NHS hospital ward.

Primary medical services provided by an NHS GP surgery are covered if you are registered as an NHS patient. However, you will need to cover some fees such as prescription charges that normally apply to UK residents.

Ambulance travel to NHS facilities and out-patient treatment are also covered by the RHCA.

How am I covered?

Upon presentation of proof of citizenship or residence in Australia, you will be entitled to access services through the NHS in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. You will need to inform your medical treatment provider that you wish to be treated as an NHS patient.

What isn’t covered?

The RHCA doesn’t subsidise private treatment including GP visits. Medicines from pharmacies that are not usually subsidised by the NHS as well as any medicine you are prescribed as a private patient are also not covered.

Australian visitors are not entitled to NHS-funded dental treatments and appliances. Bear in mind that access to medical treatment may vary if you are visiting a territory outside of England such as Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Jersey or Bailiwick of Guernsey.

When do you need travel insurance?

While the RHCA Australia has in place with various countries can be a valuable aid in the case of an emergency, they can only provide limited assistance. From the Smartraveller website operated by DFAT:

“Travellers without travel insurance are personally liable for covering any medical and associated costs they incur. The Australian Government won’t pay for your medical treatment overseas or medical evacuation to Australia or a third country.”

You don’t need to be a daredevil to need travel insurance – while we hope you never need it, accidents can happen, and you don’t want to be caught unprepared overseas. As our very own Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop says:

“If you can’t afford travel insurance you really can’t afford to travel overseas.”


TID is an Australian online travel insurance company.

Travel Alert: Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to impact many travellers around the world. Before you buy, read the travel alerts and check for restrictions at your destination(s) as these may impact cover, or your ability to travel.


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