Overseas visitors & overseas students
If you are visiting Australia and hold a temporary visa you should consider taking out Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC). If you need to visit a doctor or stay in hospital while you are here you could find yourself responsible for the full cost of treatment, which can be very expensive.
In some cases you may be required to take health insurance as part of your visa conditions. If you are applying for a Visa Subclass 457, as of 14 September 2009 you are required to have a minimum level of health insurance and to maintain it for the duration of your stay in Australia. Students in Australia who hold a temporary student visa may be required, as a visa condition, to take out Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).
Visitors (but not students) from the United Kingdom, Sweden, Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovenia, the Republic of Ireland and New Zealand have a reciprocal health care arrangement with Australia. They may be able to receive immediate necessary medical treatment in the public health system, but aren't otherwise entitled to benefits and should still consider taking out OVHC.
If you are a recent migrant to Australia with permanent residency, you are generally eligible to join Medicare and gain immediate access to health care services. You can also purchase residents' private health insurance.
Tips on health insurance for visitors
Benefits, membership costs and eligibility can vary greatly between funds and insurance policies. When buying any health insurance take care to ensure the cover you select is suitable for your needs.
- Make sure that you are aware of the waiting periods of the policy you purchase. Most insurers will impose a 12 month waiting period for cover on pre-existing conditions, and some will not cover them at all. Because OVHC policies generally commence when you arrive in Australia, illnesses that develop while you are travelling to Australia are usually considered to be pre-existing ailments.
- Check the restrictions and exclusions of the policy. Not everything will be covered in full and some items may not be covered at all. Remember that hospital costs for overseas visitors, even in a public hospital, are generally higher than $1,000 per day.
- Consider taking out the highest level of hospital cover you can afford. You can choose to pay a higher excess if you do require treatment rather than having a restriction to save money on premiums.
- Check how much your policy will cover for pharmacy as most policies only have limited cover and will not adequately cover high-cost drugs such as those used as chemotherapy drugs in cancer treatment, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
- If your visa status or Medicare eligibility changes inform your fund as soon as possible. Check with them that your policy is still suitable, as you may be able to swap to a residents' policy.
- Keep your policy paid & up to date. If your policy falls behind in payments, your fund may refuse claims or cancel your membership.
- If you're anticipating treatment, contact your fund and find out whether you will be covered and how much you will need to pay yourself. If you need treatment which isn't covered by your insurer, ask the service provider to find out how much you will need to pay out of your own pocket. If possible, ask for a written quote.