Medicare is a publicly funded universal health care scheme in Australia. Operated by the government authority Medicare Australia, Medicare is the primary funder of health care in Australia, funding primary health care for Australian citizens and permanent residents (except for those on Norfolk Island). Residents are entitled to subsidised treatment from medical practitioners, eligible midwives, nurse practitioners and allied health professionals who have been issued a Medicare provider number, and can also obtain free treatment in public hospitals. The plan was introduced in 1975 by the Whitlam Government as Medibank, and was supplemented in 1976 by a government-owned private health insurance fund, Medibank Private, established by the Fraser Government. Medibank was renamed Medicare in 1984.
Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) are in place with the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Norway, Slovenia, Malta, Italy, Republic of Ireland and New Zealand, which entitle visitors from these countries to limited access to Medicare and entitles Australian residents to reciprocal rights while in one of these countries.
Since 1999, the public health plan has been supplemented by a Private Health Insurance Rebate, where the government funds up to 30% of any private health insurance premium covering people eligible for Medicare. Including these rebates, Medicare is the major component of the total Commonwealth health budget, taking up about 43% of the total.