+ Save to your Spaces
Navigating life

Blog: how to get a medicare card - updated May 2022

13 Sep 2018
Not sure what bulk billing is, or why it can be a good idea to get your own Medicare card? Find out here.

Do you have a Medicare card?

This green piece of plastic (or digital card on the Medicare app) is your golden ticket to seeing doctors and other services for free (or low-cost). You may already be on your family’s Medicare card and receiving the benefits, but did you know if you’re 15 or older and live in Australia or Norfolk Island, you can probably get your own personal card? With your own card you'll be able to control who you share your appointment history with.  

Check your eligibility

Here, we’ll give you the lowdown about what Medicare is and the simple steps to get yourself a card. It’ll be helpful if you:

  • don’t have a card and want to get one
  • are on your family’s card and want your own
  • just want to learn about how it all works

But first: what is Medicare?

Medicare is Australia’s public health system. It gives people cheaper (and often free!) doctor’s visits, in person and via telehealth, medicines, and lets you go to public hospitals as a public patient. It also provides up to 20 sessions each year with a mental health professional if you get a mental health treatment plan & referral from your GP.  

What is a Medicare card?

A Medicare card is a plastic card with your Medicare number on it that proves you’re covered by Medicare. They also have an app, if you don’t like carrying plastic cards around.  
You can have multiple people, like a family or a couple, on the one card. If you're on a joint card then other people on the account can see your appointments, but they can't see why you're having the appointment, or what you talk about. 

What is bulk billing?

Bulk billing is when your doctor lets you use your Medicare card to cover the cost of your appointment, so you don’t have to pay for anything.  
Keep in mind not all doctors bulk bill, so if that’s the case they’ll charge you directly and you’ll get money back from Medicare later. You can find a list of doctors and clinics that bulk bill in Australia.  

How do I get my money back from Medicare later?

The easiest way is to ask the receptionist to make an electronic claim for you when you pay at the doctor’s office. If they can, they’ll do it straight away and as soon as it has been processed, you’ll either receive the money in the same account as the EFTPOS card you used to pay, or the bank account you’ve registered with Medicare.  
If they can’t submit the claim at your doctor’s office, you can submit the claim via your Medicare online account or through the Express Plus Medicare app.    

What is a gap?

If Medicare doesn’t cover all of the cost of your appointment, this is the amount that’s left that you must pay. It’s good to ask if you’ll have to pay a gap when you book your appointment, so you know what to expect. 

Why should I get one?

There are a bunch of advantages to getting your own Medicare card:

  • You’ll be able to get support for your own wellbeing – like going to a psychologist or getting a sexual health check up – with less worry about who can see that you've had the appointment.
  • You’ll get a sense of independence having a card of your own.
  • The government only issues up to three copies of the one card, so if there are four or more people in your family, getting your own card will be more convenient.
  • A Medicare card can also count as ID evidence for all sorts of things, like applying for a passport.

illustrated girl sitting on couch with cat and laptop

How do I get my own Medicare card?

It’s pretty simple to get your Medicare card. Just follow these steps:

1.   Complete a Medicare enrolment form  
 
2. Send your completed form and supporting documents to Services Australia via post (address is on the form) or via email.  

Supporting documents could include copies of your birth certificate, driver’s licence, learner’s permit or passport as well as residency documents such as lease agreements and evidence of employment.  

3. Wait for Services Australia to mail you your card. 
You can also download the Express Plus Medicare mobile app to access a digital copy of your Medicare card.  

If you’re already on your family’s Medicare card and want your own, it is even easier.

You can do this online through your Medicare online account (this is linked through your myGov account), or the Express Plus Medicare mobile app.  
Services Australia has put together a helpful step-by-step guide on how to request a new card.

What if I’m Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and don’t have standard identity documents?

No worries, you can still get a Medicare card by using a referee instead.  
You and your referee will need to fill in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Medicare enrolment and amendment form.   
Then take your form to your local agent, access point or service centre. 
If you need help, you can call the Indigenous Access Line.  

Who can be a referee? 

A community elder, medical/health service manager, nurse, school principal, any permanent Commonwealth employee with 5 or more years of continuous service, council chairperson, minister of religion and a welfare organisation worker.

If you don’t have one already, it’s also worth checking if you’re eligible for a healthcare card or low-income healthcare card. These cards are for anyone who earns under a certain amount, or is on a Centrelink benefit. They count as concession for things like public transport, and mean the government will pay more of your health services. Find out more about concessions.