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New regional visa holders will be eligible for Medicare coverage

Medicare card Source: AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Skilled migrants moving to Australia’s regional areas on newly introduced regional visas will save thousands of dollars every year on medical expenses thanks to the inclusion of Medicare coverage in those visas.

Jijumon has been living in Victoria's Craigieburn with his wife for almost a decade on a skilled sponsored visa.

All these years, he has been paying hundreds of dollars each month as a health insurance premium. 

“We have no other options to meet our medical expenses in Australia,” Jijumon tells SBS Malayalam.

“A few days after reaching Australia we went to Centrelink to see if we could get Medicare coverage, but we were told 'no'.”

The visa subclass 489 or the Skilled Regional (Provisional) Visa, which Mr. Jijumon and his wife are on, is not covered under Medicare - Australia’s publicly funded universal healthcare system.

We pay more than $300 every month for the health insurance.

However, when this visa is repealed and replaced by the newly announced regional visa subclass 491 by mid-November, things will be different.

The Federal Government has announced that those holding the two newly announced regional visas will be eligible for Medicare coverage.

A legislative instrument by the Federal Health Ministry says that “a person who is a holder of a Subclass 491 (Skilled Work (Provisional)) visa” and “Sublcass 494 (Skilled Work - Employer Sponsored (Provisional)) visa” shall be treated as being eligible for the purpose of the Health Insurance Act 1973.

This instrument extends Medicare Eligibility to holders of two provisional Skilled Work Visas (Subclasses 491 and 494)

These much anticipated visas will come into force on November 16, replacing visa subclasses 489 and 187 (Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme).

Melbourne-based migration agent Edward Francis says that the visa subclass 489 has formed a major part of Australia’s regional migration of the years, but each applicant had to bear a significant burden in paying their health insurance premium.

“If they have no medical insurance, the hospital expenses will be exorbitant in case of an untoward incident or health emergency,” he said.

The new visas are to be introduced in an attempt by the government to attract more skilled migrants to Australia’s regional areas and to ease congestion in Australia's biggest cities.

There will be 25,000 places on offer each year and will provide pathways for permanent residency if visa holders meet certain criteria.

An advantage for regional Australia

Extending Medicare coverage to these visas is expected to be attractive for new applicants.

“491 and 494 visas with Medicare coverage will be highly beneficial for the prospective migrants,” says Melbourne based migration agent Edward Francis.

“Though persons holding visa subclass 187 were eligible for Medicare benefits already, 489 visa holders were disadvantaged. Now both the employer-sponsored and state or relative sponsored regional migrants will get equal rights.”

Regional Visa
Regional Visa
Flickr

Mr. Francis says that it will be an incentive for skilled workers to choose regional Australia.

“They have to stay in the regional areas for at least three years before becoming eligible for permanent residency. This announcement will help them to ease their financial burden.”

These visas allow eligible skilled workers and their families to live, work and study in regional areas for five years.

"This will, in effect, benefit these regional areas too," says Mr. Francis. 

Last week the Federal Government announced cities such as Perth and Gold Coast would be included in the list of areas eligible for new regional visas. Effectively, all areas in Australia except the metropolitan areas of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane will have access to the 25,000 new visa places.