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Health Insurance for Overseas Visitors to Australia

Jonathan May 18th, 2011 0 comments
Tourists in Australia

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When you’re visiting Australia, you don’t want to worry about what you’ll do if you fall ill or have an accident. Depending on the type of visa that you need to enter the country in the first place, adequate health insurance may be a mandatory requirement before you can visit. Australian citizens have the benefit of free public healthcare through Medicare, but as an overseas visitor, you don’t have the same luxury unless you’re from a country with which Australia has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement.

Are You Eligible for Medicare Benefits?

For most temporary visitors to Australia, Medicare benefits won’t be an option unless you come from a country that has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia. There are currently agreements in place with the United Kingdom, Ireland, Malta, Finland, Sweden, Italy, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Belgium. Medicare benefits entitle you to free treatment in a public hospital but it’s generally restricted to treatment that is deemed ‘medically necessary’ and there can be delays attached if a bed in a public hospital isn’t readily available when you need it. Even if you’re eligible for Medicare treatment, you may prefer to have more control over when and where you’re treated and by whom though private health insurance.

What If You’re Not Eligible for Medicare?

Even if Medicare benefits aren’t available to you, taking out private health insurance may be the best way to ensure that you’re protected if illness or accidents occur. If you’re required to have a certain level of healthcare protection in place as a requirement for getting your visa, private health insurance could be the only way to ensure this.

Private Health Insurance for Visitors – Things to Consider

Waiting periods

Many private health insurance policies impose a waiting period of up to 12 months before you can access the benefits for pre-existing health conditions, which is no good if you’re only going to be in Australia for a matter of weeks and need to be able to access them much sooner than this. In a lot of cases, symptoms that develop en route to your destination are also considered to be pre-existing. Check the typical waiting period attached to the policy before you take out private health insurance coverage or you could find that you’re not able to claim if you need to.

Check what is covered

Hospital treatment can be expensive, even if your treatment takes place in a public hospital, but this can be even more so for overseas visitors to Australia. Look at what is restricted or completely excluded on a particular private health insurance policy to see how extensive the cover really is. It can be better to pay a higher excess if you do need treatment than settle for lower premiums and find that your cover isn’t as extensive as you thought at the vital moment.

Pharmaceutical cover can be low

This is usually limited and doesn’t tend to cover expensive drugs such as cancer treatments.

Arranging adequate health insurance coverage is highly recommended when travelling overseas and it may actually be mandatory to secure visa entry into Australia. Unless you come from a country which has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia, you won’t be eligible for Medicare benefits and will have to take out private health insurance to protect yourself and your family during your stay in the country. If you can afford it, purchase the highest level of cover that you can to avoid being caught out by cheap insurance that doesn’t protect you against much at all, and always check the small print on the policy to see what is restricted or not covered at all.

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