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When Medicare refunds end up 'somewhere'

By John Mikkelsen - posted Monday, 8 April 2024

I wonder how many Australians, like me, have found communicating with our national health care bureaucracy, Medicare, about as easy as winning Lotto?

Oh, it shouldn’t be that hard, Boomer, their website contains a 24-hour contact number, right?

Well, yes. But after finding that a refund of $41.40 owing on my wife’s recent visit to our non-bulk billing medical centre hadn’t made it back to our bank account via her debit card in more than a week, despite a receipt showing it had been paid, she visited the GP’s office and was told she would have to contact Medicare.


“It’s obviously been paid somewhere,” was her helpful advice. Maybe, but not to us. How many other people even bother to check and how many other “refunds” end up “somewhere”?

So I got on the phone to the giant health entity to enquire how that could happen.

I didn’t really expect a human to answer the call - what bureaucracy or big business does that these days?  So I listened to the pleasant female -sounding AI bot asking what the call was about in a couple of words, I said “Unpaid refund”. She/ it then rattled off a variety of numbered options, I chose one that sounded vaguely appropriate but I was then told I could find the answer to various questions via the Medicare app or through their MyGov link.

“Have a nice day,” she/it concluded in the same cheery voice before hanging up on me.

I had already had a look on MyGov and checked the list of refunds paid. This latest one wasn’t included.

So I called the Medicare hotline again, went through the options with Bot lady and chose the last on the list: Speak to an operator. Finally I might get somewhere, but then the same pleasant voice told me that because of the volume of calls, none were available.


“Try again later.”  Click. Call ended. No option of waiting in a queue for an hour listening to the same boring tune played over and over, no option of requesting a call-back which some non- government service providers do actually include when inquiries reach overload.

Right. With a slight trace of steam coming out my ears, I went on-line again in an attempt to find another way of contact - like an email address.

That should be simple and easy, let alone logical, and it would relieve pressure on their “24 hour, seven days a week” call centre. Well so I thought, and after searching through a multitude of word salads I did finally discover what was claimed to be an email address, which I copied and pasted into an address bar, and cc’d my own address.

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About the Author

John Mikkelsen is a long term journalist, former regional newspaper editor, now freelance writer formerly of Gladstone in CQ, but now in Noosa. He is also the author of Amazon Books memoir Don't Call Me Nev.

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