Aussies footing the bill for unpaid medical costs left by foreign visitors

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Australian taxpayers are footing the bill for unpaid medical expenses left behind by backpackers and foreign tourists, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Visitors to New South Wales are leaving the biggest bills, with a recent report revealing that in 2018–19, NSW Health had charged $113.6 million to patients ineligible for Medicare rebates. Less than half of that was paid back and $19.7 has already been written off.

Tax-funded hospitals are the ones who end up covering the outstanding bills.

“That puts enormous pressure on the budget,” said NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard. “I am quite concerned, because that money would buy a lot of additional nurses and doctors.

“We will always look after those who come, but it’s not fair that Australian taxpayers should happily pick up the tab.”

NSW also has a higher rate of hospital expenses from international visitors compared to the rest of the country, with around 16,000 Medicare-ineligible people needing hospitalisation in the state each year, some with bills as high as $200,000, says the health minister.

Were you aware that you’re covering medical costs for errant tourists? How should the government/system deal with this?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

18 Comments

Total Comments: 18
  1. 0
    0

    Are the costs mentioned coming from countries that have reciprocal agreements with Australia or are they coming from other countries with no agreements, the article indicates that Medicare is unable to recover the costs, so I’m guessing the costs are from countries without reciprocal agreements.

  2. 0
    0

    Maybe we refuse entriy to anyone who doesn’t have travel / medical insurance.

    • 0
      0

      And make them pay before they can leave the country. Threat of jail if they can’t pay might help.

    • 0
      0

      Other countries do both these things. I fail to see why we wouldn’t do the same. And some countries refuse treatment unless you pay in advance or prove you can pay for it. Then you have to pay before you are allowed to leave the hospital.

      In addition why can’t we bill the Embassy who would be able to recoup the costs directly from the tourist in the home country?

  3. 0
    0

    Maybe it is about time that Australia follows some of the 3rd world countries like Thailand where all ex-pats must have medical insurance for certain visa’s or if they use any hospital and they do not have insurance or breach the terms and conditions of their insurance like many young Australians do in Thailand and Bali and make there insurance void by their own actions be refused discharge until the complete bill is paid. Many Australians travel to Thailand and Bali and only have the basic travel insurance which does not cover any risk activities and they just go ahead with the typical attitude of “I’m alright mate it wont happen to me” and then they have an accident and it is into hospital with no insurance cover and the people of Thailand and Bali are expected to pay for them, well that has been stopped because now they will not discharge them until they pay their bill. Many start “GoFundMe” to pay their bills for them.

  4. 0
    0

    The same thing happened recently in Thailand, forcing the Thai govt to pass a law stating that all expats in that country have to have annual hospital insurance, possibly also tourist visitors as well but ime unsure of that. I understand a US$20 fee is charged each time?? to pay for hospital cover for the visa period.

    Perhaps Australia should impose the same thing here…all visitors must pay for accident cover each time they arrive here should they do not have a separate private cover. There should then be enough income for a govt insurance scheme to cover such costs.
    John

  5. 0
    0

    Simple answer!. Provide evidence of valid insurance before allowed in. Surely its a no-brainer. Try getting medical services in some other countries without having insurance and see how far you get!

  6. 0
    0

    They have the money to travel; they should have the money to pay for their medical costs.

    If Australians needed medical attention overseas, we’re told to pay up or go home at our own expense The same rules should apply for these freeloaders, who know full well, that Australians are a soft touch andtake advantage of our generosity.

  7. 0
    0

    If International Students come to SA to study they have to have Private Health Insurance or they are sent back home. If they get behind with their payments and don’t catch up very quickly they are also sent home. I know somebody who used to handle that.
    Unless travellers can prove that they have travel insurance or are getting private health insurance here they should not be allowed to enter Australia.

  8. 0
    0

    If International Students come to SA to study they have to have Private Health Insurance or they are sent back home. If they get behind with their payments and don’t catch up very quickly they are also sent home. I know somebody who used to handle that.
    Unless travellers can prove that they have travel insurance or are getting private health insurance here they should not be allowed to enter Australia.

  9. 0
    0

    The only exception should be volunteers who come to help Aust. with emergency assistance.

  10. 0
    0

    The only exception should be volunteers who come to help Aust. with emergency assistance.

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