Have you moved to America and thought to yourself at some point: “If I ever get sick or need hospital care, I’ll just go back to Australia!” well then this is for you because it’s not always so easy to use Australian Medicare as an expat.

The straightforward answer as to whether you can use Medicare as an Australian living abroad, straight from Medicare is this:

If you’ve moved overseas, you continue to be eligible for Medicare for 5 years. The 5 years starts from the date you first left Australia.

There you have it. It’s very clear. They do go on, though:

You can’t access Medicare services from outside of Australia. If we have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with the country you’re in [not Canada], you may get access to medically necessary care. You’ll need a Medicare card to do this.

If you live overseas for more than 5 years you’ll no longer be eligible for Medicare. You will need to re-enrol in Medicare when you move back to Australia to live.

That all being said, if you do want to retain the benefits of Medicare you do need to have a valid (read: not expired) Medicare card, so if you leave Australia with a Medicare card that has less than 5 years validity on it, you’re going to have some issues gaining the benefits of Medicare once it’s expired. If you want to renew the card you must know that:

If you’re overseas, we can’t replace your card until you return to Australia to live.

This includes if you’re:

  • an Australian citizen who’s overseas for more than 5 years
  • an Australian permanent resident or New Zealand citizen who’s overseas for more than 12 months

Re-enrolling is not too difficult, you just need to prove that you are an Australian citizen and have become a resident again:

You need to give us 2 of the following documents proving you live in Australia:

  • lease agreement for rental of property and gas or electricity accounts in same name or bond receipt
  • evidence of employment
  • evidence of children at school or university
  • evidence of private health insurance in Australia, bank accounts, property or contents insurance

Please note that this is a very separate discussion from whether you have to pay the Medicare Levy, whether you are taxed as an Australian resident, and what the ATO might think about all of this, so please take care!

P.S. If you haven’t moved overseas yet, great, because there are a few things you can do:

Before you leave Australia

From “Australians Overseas” on Medicare:

Please make sure you update your details before you travel. You can do this by signing in to your Centrelink online account through myGov. Or you can contact us.

Register your travel plans on smartraveller on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

As someone who has tried this, be sure to switch your myGov access to the myGov app, not your mobile number, because it’s a PAIN to try and change (you have to start fresh).

Also, from above, renew your Medicare card so it has a full 5 years validity on it!