New research reveals Aussies could be left unexpectedly forking out hundreds or even thousands of dollars on medical expenses by not knowing what is and isn’t covered under Medicare.
A survey of an independent, nationally representative panel of 1500 Australian adults with private health insurance, commissioned by leading financial comparison service comparethemarket.com.au, tested Aussies’ knowledge of what they were covered for under the public healthcare system.
Medicare Misconceptions: What we WRONGLY believe Medicare covers
Common medical expenses such as ambulance rides are not covered by Medicare, yet over half (52 per cent) of Aussies thought they were. While some state governments cover the cost of an ambulance, in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and the ACT, the cost is close to $1000 per ride.
Hearing aids are also not covered, despite 56 per cent of respondents thinking Medicare covers this cost. The average cost of a hearing aid in Australia is $3069.
1 in 3 respondents (34 per cent) wrongly believed Medicare covered home nursing services. Worryingly, this figure increased to 40 per cent for the over 65 age group. A sample of home nursing providers shows that fees can begin at around $55/hour, depending on the time and day of the week, but can cost as much $80/hour for a registered nurse. There are Government subsidised home care packages available for those with complex care needs.
When jumping over the Tasman for a ski trip to New Zealand, 1 in 10 (13 per cent) respondents will rely on Medicare to cover all the costs for skiing injuries instead of taking out travel insurance. While Australia has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with New Zealand, services such as ambulance trips – a cost of $800 for non-residents – the full cost of medicines, GP visits and private hospital care are not covered.
Medicare Misconceptions: What we WRONGLY believe Medicare won’t cover
Respondents were also in the dark as to the costs that are covered by Medicare. More than 1 in 3 Aussies (37 per cent) believe in hospital occupational therapy or physiotherapy that is essential for recovery isn’t covered by Medicare. More than 1 in 4 (26 per cent) believe x-rays and medical imagery needed by a doctor to treat illnesses aren’t covered by Medicare. In reality, Medicare provides benefits for both of these services.
A further 22 per cent were unaware Medicare covered vision tests. Medicare will also pay a higher benefit for comprehensive eye examinations every three years for patients aged under 65, and yearly for those over 65 years.
Abigail Koch, household savings and health insurance expert at comparethemarket.com.au, says: “Unlike many countries around the world, Australians are lucky enough to have access to high quality free healthcare in public hospitals and receive a subsidy towards doctors’ fees and some medications. However, it’s still essential to remember that not all medical expenses are covered under Medicare, particularly those that are conducted outside of hospital. Services we all rely on, like ambulances, dental care, and home nursing are very rarely subsidised by the government and therefore we encourage Australians to consider taking out private health insurance to help them manage their costs.”
We put Australians to the test to find out what they believe is covered by Medicare
|What Aussies WRONGLY believe Medicare covers||What Aussies WRONGLY believe Medicare won’t cover|
|Hearing aids (56% of respondents think Medicare covers this)||In-hospital occupational therapy or physiotherapy that is essential for recovery (37% of respondents think Medicare doesn’t cover this)|
|Emergency ambulance (52%)||X-rays and medical imagery (26%)|
|Home nursing (34%)||Vision tests (22%)|
|Skiing injury in New Zealand (13%)|
Comparethemarket.com.au is an online comparison service that takes the hard work out of shopping around. We help Australians to quickly and easily compare and buy products from a wide range of providers. Our easy-to-use comparison tool enables consumers to find a product that best suits their needs and their back pocket. We’re also in the business of comparing personal finance products, utilities and can help find the lowest fuel prices in your area. Whether it’s car, health or home & contents insurance, we provide a completely free service, that empowers Australians to make buying decisions with greater trust, knowledge and savings. We’ve got your back, simples.
 Survey conducted by Pureprofile
 PrivateHealth.gov.au – What is covered by Medicare: https://www.privatehealth.gov.au/healthinsurance/whatiscovered/medicare.htm
 Ambulance Service of NSW, Fees & Charges, 2017 http://www.ambulance.nsw.gov.au/Accounts–Fees/Fees-and-Charges.html. State of Victoria, Ambulance Fees, 2017 https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/hospitals-and-health-services/patient-care/ambulance-and-nept/ambulance-fees. SA Ambulance Service, Ambulance Fees, 2017 http://www.saambulance.com.au/ProductsServices/Ambulancefees.aspx. St John Ambulance, Metro Ambulance Fees, 2017 http://www.stjohnambulance.com.au/ambulance-and-health-services/metro-ambulance-service/metro-ambulance-fees. ACT Ambulance Service, Fees & Charges, 2017 http://esa.act.gov.au/actas/fees-and-charges/
 Average cost calculated by taking the average price of hearing aids listed on The Hearing Care Shop, as reported in Hearing Care Industry Association, ‘THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC COST OF HEARING LOSS IN AUSTRALIA’ (p.37): http://www.hcia.com.au/hcia-wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Social-and-Economic-Cost-of-Hearing-Health-in-Australia_June-2017.pdf
 Daughterly Care – In Home Care Costs: https://daughterlycare.com.au/what-does-private-in-home-care-cost Home Nursing Solutions SA: https://www.homenursingsolutions.com.au/blog/how-much-does-home-care-cost Absolute Care and Health – In Home Care Costs: https://absolutecarehealth.com.au/options-and-costs/private-funding
 My Aged Care Gov – Basic Daily Fees: https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/costs/help-home-costs/home-care-basic-daily-fee
 St John, ‘Ambulance Charges’: https://www.stjohn.org.nz/What-we-do/St-John-Ambulance-Services/Part-Charges/?utm_source=newzealandnow.govt.nz
 Department of Human Services, ‘RHCA – visiting New Zealand’: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/enablers/rhca-visiting-new-zealand
 Department of Human Services, ‘Medicare Benefits Schedule – comprehensive eye examinations – Budget 2014-15’: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/organisations/about-us/budget/budget-2014-15/budget-measures/health-matters-and-health-professionals/medicare-benefits-schedule-comprehensive-eye