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Last Updated on 7 October 2019

Overseas Visitor Health Coverage

Although Australia has a Medicare system to provide universal healthcare for residents, visitors are not always eligible to have hospital expenses or medical treatment costs paid for by the government.  This means if you come to Australia without insurance, you could be at risk of huge out-of-pocket expenditures if you get sick or injured.  While short-term travellers may look into optional travel insurance from their own insurer in their home countries, those who plan to stay in Australia longer will need to explore their options for overseas visitor health coverage.

Who Needs To Obtain Overseas Visitor Health Coverage?

When you apply for certain types of visas to enter and live in Australia, you will be required to purchase health insurance coverage as a condition of your visa application being granted.  Those who are required to take out insurance include:

  • Overseas students: Overseas students typically come to Australia on a student visa in order to study at an Australian economic institution.
  • 457 Visa Holders: This Visa is for temporary workers who live in Australia for up to four years after being sponsored by an employer to hold a skilled position.
  • 485 Visa Holders: This Visa permits international students to work temporarily in Australia after completing their education and graduating from an Australian educational institution. There is both a graduate work stream and post-study work stream.

Obtaining insurance is required for a Visa application to be approved and must be maintained for the duration of the time you remain in Australia on your visa.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Overseas Health Insurance Requirements

There are certain situations in which the purchase of overseas health insurance is not required for individuals obtaining a student visa, a 457 visa or a 485 visa. For example:

  • Visitors from countries with reciprocity with Australia’s Medicare system can obtain coverage through Medicare to satisfy their insurance requirements. Individuals from New Zealand, Finland, the Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Norway and the United Kingdom can obtain coverage under Medicare for the duration of their time in Australia. Individuals from the Netherlands, Belgium and Slovenia are eligible for coverage only up to the expiry date on their insurance card from their home country.
  • Students from Norway who are covered by the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme are not required to purchase Overseas Student Health Cover.
  • Students from Belgium are not required to purchase Overseas Student Health Cover if they are covered under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement that their country has with Australia.
  • Students from Sweden who are covered by the National Board of Student Aid are not required to purchase Overseas Student Health cover. Those who are covered by Kammarkollegiet are also not required to buy insurance in Australia.

While you may be covered by Medicare through reciprocity, you should be aware there are significant limitations on coverage. You may have to pay costly out-of-pocket expenditures if you do not purchase supplemental private insurance.

What Types of Insurance Coverage are Required for Overseas Students?

Overseas students are required to take out Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). Anyone who has a student visa; is applying for a student visa; holds a bridging visa; or was a student visa holder immediately before holding a bridging visa is required to purchase this coverage.

OSHC can be purchased online or through your educational institution. You have the right to choose the provider for your coverage. However, the policy must provide coverage for:

  • Out-of-hospital medical services, with minimum coverage equal to the benefits amount listed in the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).
  • In-patient medical services such as surgery. The policy must pay 100 percent of the MBS fee.
  • Shared ward accommodations in private hospitals that have a contract with the insurer.
  • Accommodations for day surgery.
  • Some types of prosthetic devices.
  • Pharmaceutical benefits of up to $50 per item and a maximum of $300 per year.
  • Ambulance Services

It is important to realize that this is minimum coverage. You can purchase supplementary private policies in addition to OSHC coverage. Buying private insurance is advisable to reduce the risk of significant expenditures due to limits on OSHC coverage.

What Types of Insurance Coverage are Required for 457 Visa Holders?

457 Visa Holders must purchase an insurance policy that provides coverage for themselves and for their families. The minimum coverage requirements include coverage for:

  • Public hospital treatment, including fees for emergency department services; coverage for overnight accommodations, admitted-patient treatment and post-surgical recovery services.
  • Some prosthetic devices up to 100 percent of the minimum benefit amount that is listed in the Private Health Insurance Rules 2007.
  • Drugs prescribed according to approved indicators that are listed within the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
  • Ambulance services that are provided by a government-approved service and are necessary for hospital admission.

As long as the minimum coverage requirements are met, the required 457 visa insurance can be purchased from any private insurer that doesn’t impose waiting periods greater than 12 months for pre-existing conditions and that makes membership eligibly information available to allow for informed financial consent.

What Types of Insurance Coverage are Required for 485 Visa Holders?

485 Visa Holders must have the same types of minimum coverage as 457 Visa holders.

Providing Proof of Insurance

When you have purchased a qualifying insurance policy that is 457-Visa compliant or 485-Visa compliant, your insurer will provide you with a letter confirming you have the minimum acceptable levels of coverage. This letter must be included when you submit your visa application to Immigration.

Students submitting an application for a student via must provide proof of an OSHC payment or other proof of insurance. A receipt submitted with your visa application is sufficient. The OSHC coverage will begun upon arrival in Australia.

Should You Purchase Additional Insurance?

Purchasing and maintaining minimum coverage is required to maintain lawful immigration status while on a student visa, a 485 visa or a 457 visa.  However, you may wish to purchase more than the minimums.

Many medical providers charge fees higher than the Medicare Benefits Schedule. You could be forced to pay these costs if you do not have supplementary coverage.  If you want treatment at a private hospital, non-hospital treatment, or any drugs or services not covered, you will also need to pay out-of-pocket.  Even a minor injury or mishap can leave you with huge medical costs that are difficult to pay on a student budget or while living abroad.

Private health insurance can provide additional hospital coverage as well as coverage for extras.  You should shop around carefully for a policy to determine the types of services you want your insurer to pay for related to both routine medical care and an emergency situation.  With minimum coverage required for your visa plus supplementary coverage, you can enjoy your time in Australia without worrying about incurring medical bills that could bankrupt you.

Frequently Asked Questions About Health Insurance

There are three types of health insurance in Australia. They are:

  • Hospital Cover
  • Extras Cover (also known as general or ancillary cover)
  • Ambulance Cover

Hospital cover can ensure any unexpected surgeries, treatments or hospital stays you may require will be covered. With appropriate cover you will have the flexibility to choose your own doctor and the option of receiving treatment in a private hospital.  Most hospital covers allow you to stay in a private room. One other perk is skipping the public hospital systems’ waiting list, which can be lengthy for non emergency treatment.

Extras cover pays benefits for a a range of services, often including treatments and procedures related to the fullowing:

  • Dental/oral health
  • Glasses and contact lenses
  • Podiatry
  • Physiotherapy
  • Psychulogy
  • Acupuncture
  • Remedial massage
  • Chiropractic
  • Hearing aids
  • Travel vaccinations

Ambulance cover, as the name suggests, will cover you should you require emergency ambulance transport. In an emergency, there is enough to worry about. Having the expenses covered for provides security and peace of mind. Many hospital covers include emergency ambulance transport If yours doesn’t, you will need to shop for this separately.

Life is unpredictable. You never know when you might need cover. No matter what life stage you’re in, there’s a policy out there for everyone. You can select as much or as little cover as you want, depending on your health needs and requirements. It’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind health cover provides.

There is no one answer here. Costs vary across providers and policy types. Just because a policy is cheap, that does not mean it is ‘value for money’ and vise versa. Make sure you check what’s included and excluded in a policy before signing up, as you want to purchase a policy that best fits your specific needs.

Premium: A premium is the price you pay for your insurance policy (it may be paid annually or on an ongoing basis).

Policy: An insurance plan. In other words, it is the type of insurance you choose to select.

Policy Holder: The owner, or ‘holder’ of a policy.

Claim: In the event that you require treatment for a service covered by your policy, you can lodge a claim for reimbursement of all or part of the cost of that treatment.. These days, most claims are submitted electronically by the health care provider (dentist, physio etc)

Lifetime Health Cover: Lifetime Health Cover was put in place to encourage young Australians to seek out and maintain ownership of private health insurance early in their lives. If you do not take out a policy before you turn 31, extra charges will be applied should you take out a policy at a later time.

This means you will pay a 2% loading on top of your premium for every year that passes after you turn 30. For example, if you take out a policy for the first time at age 32, you will be charged 4% of your premium as an extra, then at age 40, 20% and so on, up to a maximum loading of 70%.

The loading is payable for 10 consecutive years of cover - after which it is removed and you premiums will be reduced.

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS): Medicare offers assistance for Australians with many of their their prescribed medication costs through the PBS. This assistance is in the form of subsidies towards the cost of many medications. You can check if your prescribed medication is on the list of subsidised items here.

Medicare Levy Surcharge: The Medicare Levy Surcharge is an additional charge (tax) applied to single Australian taxpayers who earn over the income threshold of $90,000 per year, or families/couples who earn over $180,000 per year. This surcharge is only applied to those who choose not to have a private health insurance policy.

The surcharge is designed to reduce pressure on the public health system by encouraging those with higher incomes to invest in private health cover.

Private Health Insurance Rebate: The government’s Private Health Insurance rebate lowers premiums for most Australians with private health insurance Older Australians may enjoy an even higher rebate. Our calculator can help you estimate the Government health insurance rebate you may receive.

Disclaimer: The above information is correct and current at the time of publication

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