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Simple Advice on Seeing a Doctor in Australia

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No one should ever put off seeing a doctor when needed, especially for urgent matters, and routine checkups are a good way of ensuring long-term health for you and your family. If you've recently moved to Australia or are just getting out on your own and aren't sure what's involved in seeing a doctor, note a few simple but important tips and reminders about making an appointment, billing, and routine care.


If you are a Medicare patient, you need to ask if your doctor accepts Medicare as payment, as he or she is not obligated to do so. You then need to ask if your doctor bulk bills Medicare or whether they bill you directly. Don't assume that all doctors who accept Medicare automatically bulk bill, meaning that they send their bills directly to Medicare, as some will still bill their patients and expect to be paid by them; you would then be reimbursed  for any costs that Medicare covers. If your doctor doesn't bulk bill Medicare, you need to ensure you ask about all fees you can expect, including office fees, lab fees, and other such charges.


Some doctors in Australia do actually still make house calls, but these may be reserved for private patients and they can be expensive, so don't assume that they will come to you even if they advertise that house calls are available. When calling to make an appointment, be sure you note if you have an urgent need so that they can work you in as early as possible or refer you to an emergency clinic rather than the emergency room. Keep in mind that many doctors who work in private practices also work from hospitals and may perform surgeries, and these can often run much later than scheduled, so don't assume your appointment will always be timely. This is why you should always note if your medical concern is urgent, so you can get the care you need when you need it.


If you need to see a specialist, your doctor will need to refer you if you're on Medicare. If your general practitioner refuses to refer you, you can get a second opinion from another general practitioner. If you have private insurance, you don't typically need a referral to see a specialist, but your insurance carrier will spell that out for you. Be sure you understand these requirements so that you don't face an unexpected fee for seeing a specialist when it's not covered by Medicare simply because you didn't get that referral.