Australia’s health system, Medicare, is one of the best in the world, providing safe and affordable health care for all Australians. It is jointly run by all levels of Australian government – federal, state and territory, and local. All residents pay a 2% Medicare tax levy for this purpose. You can also opt for private health care insurance which will give you options outside of the public sector. There is a means-tested rebate for private health care insurance.
Medicare has been Australia’s universal health care scheme since 1984. Its 3 major parts are:
- medical services
- public hospitals
Medicare is available to Australian and New Zealand citizens and permanent residents in Australia.
Medicare covers all of the cost of public hospital services. It also covers some or all of the costs of other health services. These can include services provided by GPs and medical specialists. They can also include physiotherapy, community nurses and basic dental services for children.
- seeing a GP or specialist
- tests and scans, like x-rays
- most surgery and procedures performed by doctors
- eye tests by optometrists.
Medicare doesn’t cover:
- ambulance services
- most dental services
- glasses, contact lenses and hearing aids
- cosmetic surgery.
The other important part of Medicare is the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The PBS makes some prescription medicines cheaper. Under the PBS, the Australian Government subsidises the cost of medicine for most medical conditions. This means Australians can use a wide range of medicines without paying full price for them. To buy PBS medicines from a pharmacist, you’ll need a doctor’s prescription. Your pharmacist can tell you if your medicine is cheaper under the PBS.
Private Health Insurance
More than half of Australians have some form of health insurance. The private system, operated by numerous medical companies, comprises additional hospital services, along with specialist care such as dentistry, ophthalmology, audiology, physiotherapy, nursing care, and ambulances.
There are 2 kinds of cover:
- hospital cover for some (or all) of the costs of hospital treatment as a private patient
- general treatment (‘ancillary’ or ‘extras’) cover for some non-medical health services not covered by Medicare — such as dental, physiotherapy and optical services.
The Government provides a means-tested rebate to help with the cost of your private health insurance.
Costs of Dental Services
According to Australian Dental Association (ADA) data from 2019, the average cost of a periodic check-up including an examination, scale and clean and a fluoride treatment is around $215 (dental item numbers 012, 114 and 121).
But there’s a wide variation between different dentists – the cheapest will cost you $156 for those three items, and the most expensive will set you back $296.
|Procedure (dental item no)||Average cost*||Range*|
|Comprehensive oral exam (011)||$65||$49–90|
|Periodic oral exam (012)||$58||$41–76|
|X-ray (per exposure) (022)||$44||$30–56|
|Scale and clean (removal of plaque and calculus) (114)||$120||$93–165|
|Fluoride treatment (121)||$37||$22–55|
|Fissure sealing (per tooth) (161)||$59||$40–88|
|Simple (non-surgical) tooth extraction (311)||$191||$144–280|
|Prep of root canal (chemo-mech) – one canal (415)||$287||$200–425|
|Prep of root canal (chemo-mech) – add canal/same tooth (416)||$142||$93–220|
|Filling – anterior tooth – 1 surface (521)||$156||$110–215|
|Filling – anterior tooth – 2 surfaces (522)||$187||$142–255|
|Filling – posterior tooth – 1 surface (531)||$166||$122–220|
|Filling – posterior tooth – 2 surfaces (532)||$206||$161–280|
|Full crown (veneered) – indirect (615)||$1573||$1051–2000|
|Denture (complete maxillary) (711)||$1350||$950–2000|
Table notes: *Fees charged for the most common services provided by general dental practitioners (averages for specialists vary). Data based on the ADA’s 2019 dental fee survey (not including the top or bottom 5% of prices).