Picture by newbirth
Most travellers are aware that medical expenses can get ridiculously high ridiculously quickly, especially in the US. But quite a few aren't aware that the Australian Government has signed "reciprocal health care agreements" with a number of countries to allow Australians to access state-funded medical services while travelling.
Those agreements are limited to New Zealand and a handful of European nations (the UK and the Republic of Ireland; Sweden, Finland, Norway and the Netherlands; and Italy, Belgium and Malta). As such, they won't help much if you're on a round the world trip, but they might be enough for brief visits, or if your travel insurer isn't being responsive. The scheme is designed to cover "immediately necessary" treatment.
To use the scheme, you'll need both your passport and your Medicare card (something you might not think to pack otherwise). You'll also need to tell doctors and other staff that you want to be treated under the reciprocal agreement.
One challenge when doing this is that recognition of the scheme can vary really widely. I've visited doctors in the UK who were happy to see an Australian without even bothering to check my passport. Others have firmly suggested that the reciprocal care option is only available in the nearest hospital emergency room. That might not be strictly accurate, but the odds of your getting into a doctor once the receptionist has decided against it are always slight.
All things considered, I wouldn't want to rely solely on the reciprocal agreement, but it is a useful backup. If you want to hunt down cheaper travel insurance, check out previously mentioned Artog.
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