OPERATIONAL CIRCULAR

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1 OPERATIONAL CIRCULAR Enquiries to: Rob Henry - Tel: Number: OP 1841/04 Supersedes: OP 1807/04 (01/07/2004) Date: 16 September 2004 Superseded by: OP 1936/05 (07/04/2005) File No: Subject: RECIPROCAL HEALTH CARE AGREEMENTS AMENDMENT TO EXCLUDE RETIREE VISA (Subclass 410) FROM ELIGIBILITY TO MEDICARE PROGRAM Amendment to previous advice under operational policies 1807/04, 1748/04 and 1355/00 Please note that patients holding a Retirement Visa (Subclass 410 Temporary) are now not eligible to free treatment as a public patient under the Medicare program. The application of this exemption means that Retirement Visa (Subclass 410) holders can only be admitted to a public hospital as either an ineligible (i.e. liable for meeting 100% of costs) or privately insured patient. Revised Operational Instruction incorporating the above Amendment Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) A Reciprocal Health Care Agreement applies only to visitors treated as public patients. If they elect to be private, they are ineligible under the reciprocal agreement and are therefore an ineligible patient. Visitors from countries with which Australia has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements are eligible for benefits for immediately necessary medical care under the Medicare Program. Agreements are currently in place with the countries listed below, and are operational from the accompanying dates. Visitors are eligible for the duration of their stay, except in the case of Italy and Malta, where benefits are only for six months. With the exception of New Zealand, the Agreements provide diplomats and their families with full Medicare cover for the term of their stay, which is not restricted to immediately necessary treatment. Country Operational Date United Kingdom 1 July 1986 New Zealand 1 September 1999 (amended) Malta 6 July 1988 Italy 1 March 1986 Sweden 1 May 1989 Netherlands 3 January 1992 Finland 1 September 1993 Republic of Ireland 25 May 1998 Norway 1 March 2004 A reciprocal agreement with Denmark is being finalised and is anticipated to come into force in A draft agreement has been reached with Belgium and negotiations are ongoing with Slovenia. The Agreements with the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Malta and Norway provide free care as public patients, subsidised out-of-hospital medical OP 1841/04 1

2 treatment (visiting a doctor) under Medicare and subsidised medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. The Agreement with New Zealand (from 1 September 1999) and the Agreement with Ireland provide free care as public patients and subsidised medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, but do not cover out-of-hospital medical treatment. Visitors from the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Norway are covered for the duration of their stay in Australia, while visitors from Italy and Malta are only covered for a period of six months. The Agreements do not cover all health services, services not covered under the agreements are: Ambulance cover Dental care, chiropractic and optometry services Medical evacuation to your home country Funerals Treatment in private hospitals, or as a private patient in a public hospital Treatment that is not immediately necessary Elective treatment Treatment that has been pre-arranged before arrival in Australia Guidelines covering reciprocal health agreements with Australia (except Republic of Ireland) Eligibility: That the person/visitor: Holds a current passport and valid visa covering their stay in Australia; Requires immediately necessary medical treatment, the need for which arose during the visit, and for which treatment is necessary before the visitor returns home; Treatment commenced after the relevant operational date of their country s RHCA; and They are treated as a public patient, which includes both inpatient and outpatient care. Procedure for Enrolling in Medicare: RHCA visitors enrol at Medicare offices by producing their passport with a valid visa and/or proof of enrolment in their country s national health scheme. Once approved, visitors receive an Australian reciprocal health care card, with the expiry date being the same as the expiry date on their visa; and Enrolment may take place after services have been provided to either confirm eligibility for public hospital services, or to obtain Medicare benefit refunds. Retirement Visa (Subclass 410 Temporary) If a visitor received a Subclass Visa 410 (Retiree Visa) prior to 1 December 1998, they may apply to participate in the Medicare program under the RHCA of their home country. However, if they were granted a Subclass Visa 410, on or after 1 December 1998, they are not eligible for enrolment in the Medicare program and are not eligible under the RHCA. Accordingly, Retiree 410 visa holders can only be admitted to public hospitals as ineligible or private patients. OP 1841/04 2

3 Conditions for Republic of Ireland Access to public health care in Australia for visitors under the Agreement is restricted to a person who is ordinarily resident in the Republic of Ireland and is temporarily in Australia. Such visitors will not be issued with Medicare cards. A current Irish passport will usually be sufficient proof of eligibility for a visitor from the Republic of Ireland to receive public health care. In some circumstances persons travelling on passports issued by other countries, where the person resides in the Republic of Ireland, will also be eligible. The Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing will provide additional advice on proof of eligibility for these cases in the near future. The Health Insurance Commission, which administers Medicare, will not maintain enrolment records for visitors from the Republic of Ireland and will not be issuing Medicare numbers for them. The Agreement is intended to cover ill health arising during the stay, which requires treatment before returning home. It does not cover treatment, which is pre-arranged or elective, or for which there is no immediate medical necessity. Those entering Australia for the specific purpose of receiving treatment are excluded. Treatment covered under the Agreement covers immediately necessary treatment as a public patient, including both inpatient and outpatient care. Subsidised prescription drugs are available to visitors to Australia under the Agreement, but this does not entitle visitors to Medicare benefits for out-of-hospital medical care. The Agreement entitles diplomats from the Republic of Ireland, consular officers and their families to a broader range of treatment than is available to other visitors. This covers not only hospital care but also private medical treatment, and is not restricted to being immediately necessary. These persons will be issued with Medicare cards endorsed Visitor RHCA. The Agreement does not apply to Irish visitors entering Australia on student visas, as they are required to participate in a special private health insurance scheme for foreign students. Services not covered in Australia under the Agreement include ambulance, dental, medical repatriation, funerals, treatment in private hospitals, treatment as a private patient in a public hospital, treatment that is not immediately necessary, and pre-arranged or elective treatment. Minister s declaration Under Section 6 (1) of the Health Insurance Act 1973, the Commonwealth Health Minister may declare certain other groups as eligible for "Ordinary" status. The following is a list of such groups: 1. A person who is entitled to remain in Australia for less than six months and whose visit to Australia has been financed from funds made available to the Australian - American Educational Foundation. 2. A child from overseas who is attending Camp Quality. Camp Quality is a volunteer organisation that provides outdoor activities for children with cancer. Through agreement between the Commonwealth and the State, children attending Camp Quality from overseas countries, which do not have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with OP 1841/04 3

4 Australia, have been granted Medicare eligibility. Please note that individual cases need to be determined on merit. 3. Individuals released into the community on a visa from a detection facility, for example with a temporary protection visas (sub class 785). To enrol for Medicare, the 785 Temporary Protection Visa holder must attend a Medicare office with the relevant visa documentation, which validates their identity and details of their residence in Australia. 4. Children affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster individual cases to be determined on merit. People visiting Australia specifically for medical or hospital treatment are ineligible for Medicare cover and should be charged as ineligible patients. Dialysis services There are informal agreements with the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the Netherlands, which provide reciprocal renal dialysis services to residents visiting either country. However, there are no dialysis agreements with other reciprocal health agreement countries. Eligible visitors are entitled to use renal dialysis services free of charge as public patients. However, the number of dialysis treatments that a person receives depends on the availability of resources of the treating hospital. As such, States/Territories may impose limits on the number of free treatments. It is the responsibility of RHCA eligible patients to ensure that their physician contact renal units to organise treatment. These arrangements need to be made prior to the patient's arrival in Australia. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Under the reciprocal agreements, no treatment is excluded. The reciprocal agreements that Australia has with New Zealand and Ireland are structured on the basis that a visitor may access inpatient and outpatient services, as a public patient, for immediately necessary treatment. Services such as MRI should be provided where it is immediately necessary. Eligibility of Overseas Patients Treated as Public Inpatients in Privately Managed Hospitals (with respect to Joondalup and Peel Private Hospitals) A person from overseas who is entitled to be treated as an eligible person under the Health Insurance Act by virtue of a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement is entitled to receive public hospital services as a public patient free of charge (subject to the exceptions listed in clause 46 of the Australian Health Care Agreement). Under the definitions of public patient in the Health Insurance Act and the Australian Health Care Agreement between the Commonwealth and Western Australia, this applies irrespective of whether the hospital providing the services is owned and/or managed by the State. The clause 46 exceptions, for which charges may apply, are: Dental services; Spectacles and hearing aids; Surgical supplies; Prostheses (excluding artificial limbs and surgically implanted prostheses); OP 1841/04 4

5 Pharmaceuticals (upon separation and limited to a level consistent with Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme statutory co-payments); and Aids, appliances and home modifications. Patients admitted to hospitals providing public hospital services, whether in a State owned/managed hospital or a privately owned/managed hospital, should be made aware of the consequences of opting to be a private patient, including the fact that Medicare benefits will not be payable. Overseas Student Health Cover International students and their dependents may be eligible for medical and hospital cover under a form of private health insurance introduced in March 1989 known as Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). OSHC assists students with the payment of medical and hospital care expenses while studying in Australia, and will contribute towards the cost of most prescription pharmaceutical s and emergency ambulance transport. Since 1 January 2000, registered health benefits organisations approved by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing can offer OSHC policies. All foreign students studying in Australia, with the exception of students from Sweden and Norway, are required to take out Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). This includes students from countries that Australia has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with, since students are not covered by the Reciprocal Health Care Agreements. Swedish Students may be waived the compulsory OSHC visa requirements. Swedish students whose insurance is provided by CSN International (the Swedish National Board Student Aid) will not need to take out OSHC. A Swedish student who is not covered by CSN will need to take out OSHC. Swedish students will need to demonstrate their health insurance status. As a result of an agreement between the Australian and Norwegian governments, all Norwegian students are provided with adequate health insurance by the Norwegian government and are waived the compulsory OSHC visa requirement. Students should have a current health fund membership card showing that they have OSHC cover. Where a student does not have a card or the card has expired, eligibility should be confirmed with the relevant health fund. Wayne Salvage ACTING DIRECTOR FUNDING & REPORTING DIRECTORATE OP 1841/04 5

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