Residents of countries such as New Zealand, Sweden, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Finland are able to receive some subsidised health services and medicines while visiting Australia due to Reciprocal Health Care Agreements.
But there has been some confusion with some Reciprocal Medicare card holders, with the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman stating in its quarterly bulletin (October 1 to December 31 2012) that they have received "a number of complaints" from people who have access to limited Medicare benefits through the Reciprocal Health Care agreement and have purchased Complying Health Insurance Products (CHIP).
These people had received hospital treatment and discovered too late that they were not entitled to benefits under the CHIP policies for private patient hospital admissions.
People with Reciprocal Health Care Agreement benefits may purchase CHIPs, with this generally done to avoid the Medicare Levy Surcharge and Lifetime Health Cover penalty loading. But Reciprocal Medicare card holders have only "limited Medicare entitlements" and do not receive Medicare benefits when admitted to hospital as a private patient.
The PHIO states that because Australian CHIPs don't pay benefits for services where Medicare has not paid a benefit, this "effectively means" that these CHIPs won't cover a Reciprocal card holder for private patient admittance.
It's important that you know what you are signing up for and what the benefits you can expect to receive as part of your health cover.
Health funds are able to provide you accurate advice about what would be the most suitable cover for your needs, by checking out your Medicare status, once this is clear then they can help to steer you in the right direction.
If you inform your health insurer that you possess a Reciprocal Medicare card or no card at all, then your health fund should advise you that the CHIP won't fully cover you for private patient hospital admissions.
If you are an overseas visitor, it's important that you know what health insurance policies are appropriate for you and what the benefits you can expect to receive as part of your health cover. This is especially true for Reciprocal Medicare card holders with only limited Medicare entitlements.
HICA is able to provide you accurate advice about what would be the most suitable cover for your needs, by checking out your Medicare status, once this is clear then they can help to steer you in the right direction.
An Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) can be purchased by reciprocal card holders in addition to the CHIP to assist in covering private patient treatment.
You can discuss your cover options with a HICA health consultant, to discover what benefits you may be entitled to and determine if it is necessary to take out OVHC.