Health and Social Security

Health and Social Security

Information on the healthcare and social security system in Australia.

-0001 Nov 30

Information on the healthcare and social security system in Australia.


The Australian government provides help with medical expenses and hospital care through a scheme called Medicare. The government also subsidises the cost of most medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).


Medicare is Australia's health care system that provides affordable, accessible and high-quality health care for eligible Australian residents.

Medicare provides access to:

  • free treatment as a public (Medicare) patient in a public hospital; and
  • free or subsidised treatment by medical practitioners including general practitioners, specialists, participating optometrists or dentists (for specified services only)

If you are granted a Permanent Residency or you are in Australia and applied for Permanent Residency, you may be eligible to join Medicare and gain access to these health care services and programs. To find out if you are eligible, and to enrol in Medicare, visit your local Medicare office with your passport or travel documents.

For further information about Medicare, click here

As Medicare does not provide for all services, you may also wish to consider private health cover.

Medicare Levy

To help fund the Medicare scheme, most taxpayers pay a Medicare levy of 2.0% of their taxable income. You have to pay the Medicare levy surcharge (MLS) if your income for Medicare levy surcharge purposes is above a certain threshold and you (or any of your dependents) don’t have appropriate private patient hospital cover. Therefore if you and your dependents have a high income, it is recommended that you have private health insurance as well.

Your Medicare levy is reduced if your income is below a certain threshold and in some cases, you may not have to pay the levy at all.

To calculate how much Medicare levy you need to pay, please click here.

Private Health Insurance

Many people choose to pay for private health insurance. Private health insurance funds may cover costs for your treatment as a private patient in private or public hospitals and can include some services that Medicare does not cover, such as dental care, most optical care, etc. You can click here to see what is covered by Medicare and private health insurance.

If you wish to purchase private health insurance, it is important to compare different funds. The cost and type of cover can vary widely. There are also three government policies that you should be aware of:

  • The 30% Rebate
  • The Medicare Levy Surcharge (The Medicare Levy Surcharge is a tax that affects people earning above a certain threshold who don't hold private hospital cover )
  • Lifetime Health Cover

Special conditions apply for new migrants who arrive in Australia after 1 July following their 31st birthday. Migrants do not pay an increased cost if they purchase private hospital cover within 12 months of the day that they registered for Medicare.

It is important to consider taking out hospital cover in the first year after you register for Medicare. If you choose to wait more than 12 months after your registration for Medicare, you will be required to pay a Lifetime Health Cover loading equal to 2% for every year you are over the age of 30 when you decide to take out hospital cover.

You can also compare policies from different Health Funds to help you to choose a private health insurance policy that is right for you. Click here to have the list of the private health funds in Australia.

For more information on Health Insurance Policy, click here.

Social Security

Most newly arrived migrants have to live as permanent residents in Australia for at least two years before they can access most social security payments and benefits, such as unemployment assistance (Newstart Allowance or Sickness Allowance), student assistance (Austudy or Youth Allowance) and other assistance, such as a Health Care card.

Families with children

new migrants with dependent children may be able to receive Family Assistance payments to help with the cost of raising children. Usually, you must hold a permanent visa in order to be eligible, but there are some exceptions.

To be eligible for Age and Disability pensions, you generally have to live as a permanent resident in Australia for at least ten years.

Payments made under the Social Security Act and the Student Assistance Act:

  • ABSTUDY – offers a range of allowances to assist Indigenous students and New Apprentices.
  • Age Pension – for people planning for retirement or who are already retired aged 65 years and over.
  • Assistance for Isolated Children – for families with a child who cannot attend school locally because of distance or special needs.
  • Austudy Payment – for full-time students and New Apprentices aged 25 years or over.
  • Carer Allowance – for people who care for minors 16–17 and adults over 18 years with a disability.
  • Carer Allowance (Child) – for people who care for a child under 16 years with a disability.
  • Carer Payment – for people who provide full-time care for someone with a disability
  • Disability Support Pension – for people unable to work for two years due to illness, injury or disability.
  • Double Orphan Pension – for people who are raising children who have lost both parents.
  • Maternity Payment – for help with those extra costs after the birth of a new baby.
  • Newstart Allowance – for people who are looking for employment.
  • Parenting Payment – for parents or guardians to help with the cost of raising children under 6 for partnered parents and under 8 for sole parents.
  • Pensioner Education Supplement – for people on pensions with education expenses.
  • Special Benefit – for people who are in financial hardship, have no way of supporting themselves and are not entitled to another payment (normally due to residency requirements)
  • Youth Allowance – for full-time students or New Apprentices aged 15 (under some circumstances) 16 to 24 and people aged under 21 who are undertaking job search or a combination of approved activities.

Further information on social security can be found here.