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.
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:
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!