One of the most important challenges when you launch into adulthood is navigating the healthcare system. Understanding the how doctor, hospital and healthcare visits are handled and paid for might is a skill that might not only save you a lot of money – it could even save your life.
Below is a list of our 5 best tips for navigating the Victorian Healthcare System.
1. Using a Medicare Card
A Medicare card is your free ticket to access Australia’s public health system. It gives you cheaper (and sometimes free) doctors’ visits, free access to public hospitals as a public patient and cheaper medications from a pharmacy.
You might already be on a family or carers joint Medicare Card, but once you turn 15 you are eligible to have your own Medicare card. If you are on a joint Medicare card, then the other people on that card can see if you’ve had an appointment, but not what the appointment was for or what you talked about.
There are benefits to having your own card too:
- Support your own health and wellbeing – like visiting a psychologist for your mental health or getting a sexual health check with less to worry about who can see that you’ve had that appointment.
- It counts as an ID when you’re applying for things like a passport or a bank account.
- The sense of independence from having a Medicare card of your own.
- The government only issues 3 versions of the one card, so if there are four people in your family it could be more convenient.
2. Sign Up for a Medicare Card
To sign up for a Medicare Card:
- Fill out this application form.
- Bring it to a Centrelink Service Centre along with your ID (a birth certificate, passport, drivers license).
- Wait for Centrelink to Mail out the Card.
It is also worthwhile checking if you’re eligible for a healthcare card or a low-income healthcare card. These cards are for anyone earning under a certain amount, or who is on a Centrelink benefit. They count as a concession card on things like public transport and mean that the government will pay for more of your health services.
3. Bulk Billing and Visiting the Doctor
If you visit a doctor that Bulk Bills you can use your Medicare Card then and there to pay for all, or some of the appointment. If your doctor doesn’t bulk bill you might be able to claim some back later through Medicare – but you should ask what they charge for the appointment, and what you will get back through Medicare before having your appointment.
Your General Practitioner Doctor (or GP) should be your first port of call for any non-emergency or preventative medical care during clinical hours, and will be trained to treat you for a range of illnesses and injuries that cant be treated by over the counter medication.
Having a good, ongoing relationship with a GP can be beneficial to the standard of healthcare that you receive. You GP will get to know you over time and become more familiar with your medical history. You might need to visit a few GPs before you find one that you’re comfortable with.
4. Ambulance Cover and Private Health Insurance
It is important to understand that if you need emergency care in an ambulance, your Medicare card WON’T cover you. To be covered for trips in an Ambulance you either need Ambulance cover, which you can purchase from the Ambulance Victoria Website OR in some cases Private Health Insurance will cover some or all your Ambulance trip (but make sure you check!).
Medicare also will not cover trips to the Dentist or the Physiotherapist, Glasses or Contact lenses if you need them and many other healthcare options. If you choose to get Private Health Insurance, make sure you select a policy that covers your needs.
The independent, government run website privatehealth.gov.au is a good source of information to use when you’re comparing policies.
5. Going to the Dentist
You might not think it but going to the dentist is very important for your overall health. Beyond helping you with a sparkling smile, the dentist can detect oral infections and inflammations, tooth decay or oral cancers.
When it comes to looking after your teeth it’s recommended that you visit the dentist every 6 months or so (but your dentist may recommend longer or shorter intervals) to keep you teeth and gums in top condition.
In support of the Ready to Launch Resource, Barwon Adolescent Taskforce has prepared the Ready to Launch Trello Board – a resource full of information about everything to do with launching into adulthood.
The Trello board features more information relating to healthcare, as well as other useful bits of information around everything from Resume writing and Job Applications, to cooking and car care.