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Can I use Australian Medicare as an Australian Expat living overseas in 2024?

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 move back to Australia after more than 5 years overseas, you can re-enrol in Medicare. You don’t need to visit a service centre.

What to do to ensure you have as long as possible on your Medicare card

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 them 2 of the following documents proving you live in Australia or 1 document from Australia and 1 from where you last lived:

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:

Updating Medicare before you leave Australia

From “Australians Overseas” page on the old Medicare website:

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!

Josh Pugh

Josh Pugh

Josh is a business founding, digital marketing focused, charity driving, community builder from South Australia, living in New York City. After moving in 2017, Josh realized that there was an opportunity to curate and help the community of expats who moved to the United States – and launched America Josh. Josh is also the President of Variety – the Children's Charity of New York, Secretary at The Mateship Foundation, and Founder & CEO at Fortnight Digital.View Author posts

12 thoughts on “Can I use Australian Medicare as an Australian Expat living overseas in 2024?”

  1. I am an Australian Citizen booted off Medicare after only one year living in the U.S.

    I am not eligble for any cover, so like the American system, Australia is *very* expensive if something goes wrong while Im visiting there.

    I tried to ask Medicare about the five year rule, but it is not valid after one year from what I was told. As it was explained to me, after five years I would need to fully re-enrol. Between 1 and 5 years you only need to prove you are living in Australia via residency docs without full re-enrollment.

    Under one year of departure you are fine.

    1. Hi Chris, I was likewise booted off Medicare while visiting Australia recently. I hadn’t been back to Australia for just over 4 years, due to the pandemic and subsequent economic problems. I visited services Australia for another issue, and was ambushed! As I’m well over old age pension age, it’s impossible to get travel insurance, so I’m virtually banished from going there again. I wonder what would happen if I needed costly medical attention while in Australia ?? Brian.

  2. Hi Josh – did you have any luck updating your address on the mygov website? It won’t let me enter an overseas address and there doesn’t seem to be any other option for telling them you live overseas. I don’t want to cancel my medicare account (I’m only planning to be overseas for 2 years and my medicare is valid for another 3 years) but I also want to avoid paying the medicare levy as part of my Australian taxes. Anyone know if that is possible?

  3. Hi Josh,
    I am an Australian Medicare Provider (allied health). Can I provide online services to patients in Australia and then claim Medicare? Or do we both need to be in Australia?

  4. Does anyone have any idea how long it takes Medicare to reactivate a returning AU citizen who has been abroad long enough to warrant them having to go through the activation process? Please assume that the forms and supporting documentation are all satisfactory. Thanks.

    1. What if I have left but I am still using a psychologist service online?
      I used to get rebate for my payments before leaving. It is also hard to change my therapist.

    2. What if I have left but I am still using a psychologist service online in Australia?
      I used to get rebate for my payments before leaving. It is also hard to change my therapist.

  5. Any thoughts on the situation of health care coverage when visiting Australia (e.g. 5 week visit) but medicare has expired. No one seems to want to provide travel insurance to an Australian visiting Australia…

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