Health

8 surprising benefits of your Medicare card

Beyond visits to the GP, Medicare covers a host of lesser-known services ranging from mental health treatment to overseas medical care. Sabrina Rogers-Anderson reveals how to make the most of your little green Medicare card.

By Sabrina Rogers-Anderson

If you’ve been finding it increasingly difficult and more expensive to see a GP in recent years, you’re not alone.

Access to health care services can be limited, especially in regional, remote and rural areas, and there’s been a sharp decline in bulk billing over the past few years.

With purse strings getting tighter due to the rising cost of living, a growing number of Australians are avoiding going to the GP or seeking treatment in already overflowing hospitals.

To address these challenges, the Australian Government is injecting a whopping $6.1 billion into bolstering the Medicare system over the next five years.

Under the Strengthening Medicare package, new programs and initiatives are being rolled out to meet Australians’ health care needs and reduce their out-of-pocket costs. 

Coupled with existing services most people don’t realise they can access through Medicare, there’s a host of benefits hiding inside that little green card. 

Here are 8 you can start taking advantage of today.  

1. Save money by finding a doctor that will bulk bill

The Government is investing $3.5 billion over 5 years to triple bulk billing incentives paid to GPs on top of the standard Medicare benefit.

Bulk billing makes your doctor visits free, as the government pays the doctor's fee by issuing them a rebate through Medicare.

In metropolitan areas, GPs who bulk bill patients for standard face-to-face or telehealth consultations will receive an incentive of $20.65 instead of the previous $6.85.

GPs in very remote areas will get $39.65 instead of $13.15.

This initiative is supposed to provide free GP visits to more than 11.6 million children under 16, pensioners and other concession card holders.

2. Improve your health outcomes with MyMedicare

A new voluntary patient registration model, MyMedicare, has been launched to build stronger relationships between GPs and their patients - and it could save you money, too.

Once you’ve registered for MyMedicare (which takes less than a minute), your general practice will be notified that you’ve chosen them as your primary care team.

If they're also signed up to the scheme, you'll have access to additional Medicare rebates or even bulk billing when you visit them because the government will give them additional funding.

Benefits of MyMedicare for patients include:

  • You can see any GP at your nominated practice and get the same benefits.
  • You'll have access to Medicare rebates for long telehealth appointments (more than 20 minutes). If you aren't registered for My Medicare, rebates are only available for short telehealth appointments. To encourage GPs to offer more long telehealth consultations, the triple builk-billing incentive applies when these appointments are for children, Age Pensioners and concession card holders.
  • Residents of aged care homes will receive more visits from their GP and better care planning, thanks to an aged care incentive that will be rolled out in August 2024.
  • People with chronic diseases will have access to multidisciplinary care from their GP and other health professionals in the community from mid-2024, reducing their number of hospital visits. Why? You guessed it - another incentive.

In addition to saving you money and making it easier to get the care you need, research shows that this model leads to better health outcomes.

3. Save time by going digital with Medicare

If you don’t already have the Express Plus Medicare mobile app, it’s well worth setting it up. You’ll need to have a myGov account, link Medicare to MyGov, and then download the app. You can follow the easy step-by-step instructions on the Services Australia website.

Here are a few things you can do on the Medicare app:

  • Update your details
  • Make a claim
  • Manage your Medicare card and the people on it
  • Access your digital Medicare card
  • Manage your organ donation decision and access your digital donor card (read more on Citro about donating organs)
  • View or save your proof of vaccination
  • Check your Medicare Safety Net balance and confirm your family
  • Find a service centre.

The 2023-24 Budget includes a $951.2 million investment in digital health technologies over four years. This includes a much-needed upgrade of My Health Record and further innovations that will create a more connected and collaborative health care system.  

And don't forget to make sure Medicare has your correct bank details on file.

In 2023, nearly a million Australians had unclaimed Medicare benefits, with the ABC reporting each person had an average amount $240 to collect.

If Medicare doesn't have your correct bank details, you might be one of the million people with unclaimed money. You can check if your details are up to date on the myGov website or app.

To check for unclaimed Medicare benefits, check MyGov has your correct bank details

If you are using a computer, sign into MyGov and select Medicare. If you are using the Medicare app on iOS or Android, open the app and enter your MyGov pin. 2. Navigate to 'My details' and then scroll to find 'Bank details' to make sure they are correct.

4. Pay less for your medications

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) reduces the cost of some prescription medications. You’ll benefit from these savings if you’re enrolled in Medicare and your medication is PBS-listed. 

If you spend a lot on medications each year, you’ll pay a significantly lower amount for your medicines (or get them for free if you have a concession card) once you reach the PBS Safety Net Threshold.

You’ll need to keep track of your spending, so it may be easier to buy all your medications from the same pharmacy. Talk to your pharmacist about how best to manage it. 

Once you’ve reached the threshold, you’ll need to apply for a PBS Safety Net Card to get cheaper medications.

The 2023-24 Budget includes measures to make medicines even more affordable. GPs and nurse practitioners can now prescribe 2 months’ worth of some drugs, reducing prescription copayments and out-of-pocket costs for patients.

Medications to treat a range of illnesses and conditions, including cystic fibrosis and COVID-19, will also be added to the PBS.

Read the 6 amazing cards and concessions all Australians should apply for, along with 12 benefits for older Australians.

5. Save on mental health care

The last few years have been challenging, and rates of depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions have increased, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO)

For some, the price tag of mental health treatment can be prohibitive. But a GP can assess you and create a mental health treatment plan that will help reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

A mental health treatment plan allows you to claim up to 10 individual and 10 group sessions with a mental health professional (such as a psychologist or psychiatrist) each calendar year.

Some mental health professionals bulk bill, so you won’t have to pay anything.

More often, you’ll have to cover the difference between the professional’s fee and what Medicare covers. If you have private health insurance, you may be able to claim some of it back. Read more to understand the benefits of private health insurance in addition to having Medicare.

6. Get help with the cost of screenings, tests and scans

Many people don’t realise that Medicare covers all or part of the cost of several screenings, tests and scans. If the provider bulk bills, you won’t have to pay anything.

It’s a good idea to ask whether the place you need to get blood tests, x-rays or ultrasound tests bulk bill and how much you can expect to pay out of pocket when you make your appointment.

Medicare can help with the cost of:

  • Cancer screening (including bowel, cervical and breast)
  • Hearing tests - read more about hearing on Citro
  • Eye tests - read more about eye care on Citro
  • Pathology tests
  • Diagnostic imaging and scans (including X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and ultrasounds)

Find out more on the Services Australia website.

7. Take advantage of free health care overseas

Did you know Australia has reciprocal health care agreements with 11 countries that cover essential medical services when you’re travelling there?

While these agreements aren’t replacements for travel insurance, they can give you peace of mind knowing that many of your medically necessary health care costs will be covered in:

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

Find out more about what’s covered in each country. Read more about the 8 amazing benefits of holding an Australian passport.

8. Get support for a chronic disease 

In addition to the new measures being implemented to help people with chronic conditions receive more appropriate care and pay less for their medications, GPs can create a Chronic Disease Management Plan (CDMP).

If you’ve had a health condition such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis or cancer for six months or more, a CDMP can ensure you receive the tailored care you need.

You may even receive Medicare benefits for visits to allied health providers such as physiotherapists with this type of plan. Read more on Citro's story about game-changing health and fitness hacks to get more out of the system for less.

Who knew the green card in your wallet had so many hidden benefits? And most of them are just a click away!

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