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Health Insurance for Student Visitors to Australia

Sally Aquire June 15th, 2011 0 comments
Student travel

If you’re planning to come to Australia for your studies anytime soon, you might be wondering what the situation is as far as health insurance is concerned. While Medicare benefits are only fully accessible for Australian citizens (and to a lesser extent, overseas visitors from countries with Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with Australia), this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to take out health insurance for your stay in the country. Here’s what you need to know about arranging health insurance cover as a student visitor to Australia.

Image by Jonathon D. Colman

Is It Mandatory?

For the most part, student visitors to Australia are required to arrange health insurance in the form of Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) as part of temporary student visa conditions so you don’t actually have a choice in the matter. You need to maintain your coverage throughout your stay in Australia as falling behind on premiums can mean that you’re in danger of breaching your visa conditions.

Are There Any Exceptions?

Students arriving from Belgium don’t need to arrange OSHC insurance as the Reciprocal Health Agreement between Australia and Belgium is deemed to provide adequate enough cover on its own. There is also an agreement in place between Australia and Norway which means that Norwegian students do not need OSHC cover either.

The rules aren’t quite so clear cut from students arriving from Sweden but you won’t need OSHC if you already have insurance from CSN International (the Swedish National Board of Student Aid) or Kammarkollegiet (the Swedish Legal, Financial and Administration Agency). Otherwise, Swedish students will need to purchase OSHC insurance before arriving in Australia.

How OSHC Insurance Works

  • What it is – OSHC is designed to help foreign students cover the costs of hospital and medical treatment while studying in Australia. It is also accessible for the dependants of overseas student visitors to Australia, such as spouses and children.
  • What is included – For out-of-hospital services such as GP visits, you’re covered for the benefit amount detailed in the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS). For in-patient services such as surgery, you’re covered for 100 per cent of the MBS fee. OSHC also covers accommodation in shared wards in both public and private hospitals (although the latter may be dependent on the hospital having an agreement with your OSHC provider) and accommodation for day surgery procedures. Ambulance costs may be included on a limited basis but there are usually restrictions on pharmaceuticals. General treatments such as dental, optical and physiotherapy are not covered through OSHC and you’ll need to arrange additional coverage for those via an Extra OSHC policy taken out through your OSHC provider or through private health insurance.
  • Making claims – If you need treatment during your stay in Australia, OSHC insurance allows you to choose whether you’re treated in a public or private hospital. If you want to be treated in a private hospital, check things out beforehand as some services may not be covered through OSHC.
  • How to pay for treatments – There are two options regarding paying for treatment. You can either pay the bill and request a refund for your health insurer, or have the unpaid account sent to your health insurer. For pharmaceuticals, you pay the chemist and claim the costs back from your insurer.

What If I Fall Behind on My Premiums?

As OSHC is a mandatory requirement for holding a student visa, it’s vital to keep on top of your premiums. While you won’t automatically lose your cover if you do fall behind on your premiums (and will therefore be able to retain possession of your student visa), you won’t be able to claim for any benefits received while you’re not up-to-date with your payments.

How to Arrange Overseas Student Health Cover

Because OSHC is required throughout your stay in Australia, you need to purchase it before you arrive so that you’re covered straight away. You may be able to do this through the institution at which you’ll be studying or you can go through insurance providers themselves. For the latter option, OSHC is only offered by a few insurance providers, namely:

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