Overseas Visitors Health Cover for Australia

Published: February 25, 2020

If you're thinking of visiting Australia for business or a holiday, you may want to consider getting adequate health insurance. Healthcare in Australia can be very costly, and the last thing you need is an expensive bill to spoil your stay.

Australia's national health care scheme, Medicare, isn't typically available to overseas visitors unless you’re from a country with a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA). However, even if you do come from a country with RHCA, some services may not be covered. By purchasing an Overseas Visitor Health Cover (OVHC) policy you can avoid out-of-pocket medical costs.

Is health insurance mandatory for visitors to Australia?

No, health insurance isn't typically compulsory if you want to visit Australia. For example, when applying for a Visitor Visa (600), proof of health insurance won't generally be required. However, for some visa applications, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection will request you provide proof of adequate private health insurance.

Take note: While private health insurance is not typically compulsory for a Visitor Visa, it is generally mandatory for a Temporary Skills Shortage visa (482) and a Temporary Graduate visa (485).

What is Overseas Visitor Health Cover?

Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) is a private health insurance policy for tourists wanting to visit Australia. Its purpose is to help international visitors pay for any medical costs that might arise from your stay in Australia, for example, ambulance services, falling injuries or snake bites.

Australian healthcare can be expensive, and by having overseas visitor health insurance, you might save a lot of money should you get sick or injured. Some of the common treatments and services covered by OSCH include medically necessary hospital admissions, ambulance services, a portion of doctor’s fees, and some pharmaceutical costs.

Which tourist visas need health insurance?

When visiting Australia, there are several different tourist visas available, including:

  • The Visitor’s Visa Subclass 600: You can visit Australia for 3, 6 or 12 months to see family, do business or enjoy a well-deserved holiday.
  • into Australia for up to 12 months, but you can only remain for 3 months at a time.
  • The eVisitor Visa Subclass 651: An electronically stored permission that allows you to enter Australia as a visitor for up to 12 months, but only for 3 months each time you enter. You may apply for this visa if you have a passport from an eligible country.

Having a tourist visa health insurance policy means you'll have peace of mind knowing that you’ll be covered for any unforeseen medical treatments during of your stay in Australia.

What are the benefits of having OVHC?

Generally, Overseas Visitors Health Cover can help you pay for:

Take note: The type and amount of benefits you’ll be able to claim generally depends on your chosen health fund, policy type and level of cover.

Will you be eligible for Medicare in Australia?

Generally, you may have access to some Medicare benefits if you’re from a country that has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) with Australia. However, even with an RHCA, there are limits to the type and amount of subsidised care you can claim.

Which countries have reciprocal health care agreements with Australia?

The Australian Government has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) with 11 countries, including:

  • Belgium
  • Finland
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • The Republic of Ireland
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom

Which visitor health insurance is the best?

The best visitor health insurance for you depends on your specific requirements, for example, the state(s) you'll be visiting, the number of family members that are travelling with you, your health, the activities you're planning to participate in and your budget. It is generally worth getting OVHC quotes from a variety of providers to determine which one best meets your particular requirements.

Compare overseas visitor health insurance

Company Policy type Monthly premiums starting from
Allianz Assistance Health Budget Visitors Cover $78.00
Australian Unity Basic Overseas Visitors Cover $59.25
Bupa Standard Visitors Cover $150.87
HBF Standard Overseas Visitors cover & Basic Extras $138.65
HIF Visitor Saver $69.79
Medibank Overseas Visitors Everyday Hospital and Medical $133.00
nib Budget Visitor Cover $73.23
Source: Websites of the companies mentioned above (17 February 2020).

Take note: The above prices are based on a single adult applying for a 600 Visitors Visa to visit NSW, as at February 2020.

Tips for choosing your 600-visa health insurance policy

  • Find out what the waiting period is between your plan being accepted/enforce, and when you are eligible to claim.
  • Check if there are any exclusions (treatments and services that might not be covered), such as elective medical treatments or major eye surgeries.
  • Compare health insurance plans from different health funds to see which one provides you with the lowest premiums and highest benefits.
  • Choose a plan that best meets your health care needs. The cheapest policy may be tempting but could limit coverage and not meet your medical requirements.
  • Pick a provider that offers you the payment option and frequently you prefer (annually, quarterly, monthly o weekly. If you don't pay your premiums on time, the insurance provider might cancel your policy or refuse to pay claims while your account is in arrears.

Frequently asked questions and answers

Where to purchase medical insurance for visitors to Australia?

There are various ways you can buy a tourist visa health insurance policy. You can use one of the online visitor visa health insurance comparison services: Allianz Global Assistance, Iman Australia Health Plans or GetMyPolicy Australia.

Alternatively, you can request an OVHC quote directly from the health fund of your choice: Australian Unity, Bupa, HBF, HIF, Medibank and nib.

How to claim visitor’s health cover?

Claiming for in-hospital services and treatments can vary depending on your chosen health fund. Some health insurance providers prefer that in-hospital costs be forwarded to them for payment. Others may require you to pay your bill first and will reimburse you later.

Extras claims can typically be submitted by post or online (via email, their website portal or smartphone App) depending on the provider. Both methods generally require you to provide a reference number for the claim, a completed claim form, as well as copies of your invoices and receipts.

Can you get overseas visitor health insurance with no waiting period?

Some procedures and services require a waiting period; for example, 12 months for pre-existing conditions, including pregnancy, and 6 months for optometry. However, the waiting periods may vary depending on your chosen provider.

If you take out your medical insurance for visitors to before you arrive in the country, your waiting period will start on the day you arrive in Australia. If you're already in Australia when purchasing a policy, your waiting period will commence from the date your health insurance is activated.

Can a tourist see a doctor in Australia?

Yes, visitors to Australia can generally go to a doctor. Still, the fees you'll incur will depend on whether you are eligible for Medicare benefits or have appropriate private health insurance. If you have a relevant OVHC policy, your GP fees could be paid in full. However, it depends on your choice of health fund, policy type and level of coverage.

How much does visitor health insurance cost?

The costs of OVHC generally depends on your insurance provider, cover type, and the level of coverage. Other factors that could influence your policy price include whether the policy is for a single adult, couple, or family, the state(s) you'll be visiting and the duration of your stay. You can get an international health insurance online quote from most OVHC providers.

Do British citizens get free healthcare in Australia?

British Citizens typically have access to some Medicare benefits due to the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement between the UK and Australia. However, it is sometimes worth taking out additional private health insurance because the RHCA may have limited coverage and only cover essential treatments.

Does my health insurance cover international travel?

No. Overseas visitor health insurance typically only covers you when travelling within Australia, not outside of Australia. If you require health cover for international travel, you might want to review some international travel insurance policies.

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