Smart travel for seniors: reciprocal Medicare healthcare agreements around the world

Smart travel for seniors: reciprocal Medicare healthcare agreements around the world

Did you know that Medicare has healthcare agreements in other countries?

Medicare reciprocal agreements allow Australian visitors to access publicly funded services for medically necessary care. If you are planning your next trip, it could save you time and money to know which countries are covered and what you need to know before you go.

What is medically necessary care?

Medically necessary care includes emergency care and care for an illness or injury that can’t wait until you get home.

Which countries are covered?

Australia currently has reciprocal healthcare agreements with:

  • Belgium
  • Finland
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom.

Smart travel tip: Visit the Australian Department of Human Services website to check the most up to date list of countries with reciprocal healthcare agreement.

What to do when accessing medical care in another country

If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing medical care while travellin, you will need to ask staff at the hospital or medical centre where you are accessing treatment to treat you under the reciprocal healthcare agreement with Australia.

You will also need to present your passport to prove you are a permanent Australian resident and your current Medicare card.

Smart travel tip: Check that your Medicare card will not expire while you are away. If it will, you can order a new card before you go either online through your myGov account or by calling Medicare on 132 011.

What do I need to know?

Medical services can be expensive, so even if you don’t have a preexisting condition, it’s important that you understand what is covered and how to access care before you leave home, so you’re not caught short.

Each reciprocal healthcare agreement with the countries listed above is unique in the medical services that are included and how to access medical care within that country. Each agreement also includes a time limit on accessing care, anywhere from within six months to two years of entering the country.

Smart travel tip: Find out more about the specific rules and inclusions under Australia’s agreements with these countries on the Australian Government Human Services website.

Taking prescription medicine overseas

Taking prescription medicine abroad to give or sell to others is illegal. Even if it is for your personal use, there are strict rules around taking prescription medicines outside of Australia.

Before you go:

  • Contact the country’s embassy, high commission or consulate to check that it is legal to bring the medicine into that country. You should also ask if there are any restrictions on the amount of medicine you can carry with you. You can find contact information on the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs website.
  • Contact Australian customs to check that it is legal to take the medicine out of Australia by calling 1300 363263 or emailing Again, it’s worth checking whether there are any limits on the amount of medicine you can take.
  • Get a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you need to take, and confirming that it is for your personal use. If you can’t obtain a doctor’s letter, you can complete an official medicine export declaration form instead. Either way, make sure you carry this with you and have it on hand when entering or exiting a country.
  • Always leave the medicine in it’s original packaging.

If it’s unlawful for you to take your prescription medicine with you while you travel, talk to your doctor about alternatives.

Smart travel tip: If you have any questions, you can call the PBS taking or sending medicine overseas line.

Do I still need travel insurance?

Reciprocal health care agreements are not a substitute for private travel insurance. If the unexpected happens and you need emergency medical care, it’s unlikely that an agreement will cover the full costs of that care.

Travel insurance may also help to cover extra costs, for example, changing flights or accommodation if your stay is extended due to illness or injury.


Find out more about reciprocal healthcare agreements, prescription medications and travel insurance at

Article by Anna Rogan | Content Services Melbourne

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