Overseas Visitors Health Cover

If you are visiting from overseas, you generally are not covered under Australia's public Medicare system for medical or hospital expenses. If you are a Visa 457 or Visa 485 applicant or an overseas student, then you will be required to take out a specific level of health insurance that meets your visa requirements.

Unlike Australian citizens who can use the public health system Medicare, to cover their medical and hospital expenses, *overseas visitors who hold temporary visas aren't generally eligible to use Medicare.

*Visitors 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 and can receive immediate necessary treatment in the public health system but aren't otherwise entitled to benefits.

This means that if you need medical attention while you are visiting Australia you could find yourself substantially out of pocket. Even in a public hospital you could be charged more than $1,000 a day in hospital fees alone. Without health cover you can find yourself responsible for the full cost of treatment.

If your visa status or Medicare eligibility changes at any time, inform your insurer as soon as possible to find out whether your level of cover is still suitable.

What does OVHC Cover?

Every OVHC policy will differ in costs, eligibility and benefits. However, most policies should cover you for medically-required hospital admissions and a portion of doctor's fees.

In addition to cover for hospital and medical expenses, you can also purchase General Treatment cover. General Treatment cover pays benefits towards the services of health care providers in private practice such as dentists, optometrists and physiotherapists. Insurance can cover part of these costs, though you would still need to cover part of the fees yourself.

Take care when you are purchasing cover as some plans will have lower benefits or no benefits for certain types of treatment, and waiting periods can vary - some policies may permanently exclude cover for pre-existing illnesses, meaning that such illnesses can never be covered. See the Tips on health insurance for visitors for further information about what you should look for when purchasing cover.

Travel insurance may also cover you for items that are not covered on visitors' cover such as loss of travel goods and repatriation in a medical emergency.

Where can I purchase OVHC?

You can purchase cover for visitors to Australia from some health funds and some general insurers based in Australia. You can also opt to be covered by insurance policies issued in other countries. Remember, if you are on a 457 Visa, 485 Visa or a student visa you need to purchase the type and level of health insurance specified by your visa conditions.

The internet is a good way to locate insurance cover for visitors. We suggest you search for "Overseas Visitors Insurance" or "Overseas Visitors Health Cover" in a search engine and compare policies from at least 3 providers.

How the Medicare Levy Surcharge might affect the type of health insurance you need

If you are:

  • on a high income (over  $90,000 as a single or $180,000 as a couple or family in the 2015-16 financial year);
  • considered resident in Australia for tax purposes; and
  • have successfully enrolled in Medicare (for any level of benefits - reciprocal, interim, or full);

then you may be affected by the Medicare Levy Surcharge. For further information about the Surcharge and the type of health insurance policy that exempts you from the Surcharge, please refer to the Medicare Levy Surcharge.