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Overseas Student Health Cover in Australia

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Anneke Van Aswegen Updated: 20 May 2020
Types of Health Insurance

If you’re considering studying in Australia, you’ll need suitable health insurance. Health care in Australia is costly.

Medicare, Australia’s public health care system, is generally not available to international students unless you’re from a country with a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA).

To be granted an Australian student visa, you must purchase an appropriate Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) policy. Even if you’re entitled to reciprocal benefits from Medicare, you generally still need OSHC. Your policy must remain valid for the duration of your stay in Australia. If your OSHC is cancelled, for example, due to non-payment, your visa could be revoked.

What is OSHC?

Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) in Australia is a health insurance policy for international students wanting to study in Australia. It is designed to assist international students to cover the medical cost they might incur while in Australia.

Healthcare can be very expensive in Australia, and by having the necessary health insurance, you can save a lot of money should you become ill or injured. Some of the services typically covered include ambulance transport and in-hospital treatments.

Having OSHC is generally a mandatory visa requirement for international students. Your cover must be maintained during the whole duration of your stay. Overseas students who have not kept their policy active, might risk having their visa cancelled.

Who needs overseas student health cover in Australia?

Any international student wishing to study in Australia is required to take out an OSHC health insurance before entering the country. Without an OSHC for Australia, it is generally not possible to get a student visa to study in Australia. Students applying for the following student visas usually require OSHC:

However, while specific countries have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with Australia, allowing such students to benefit from Medicare, having OSHC remains a mandatory requirement for all international students.

Some of the countries with these healthcare agreements are Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Slovenia, Netherlands, New Zealand, and the UK. It might still be a good idea to check the details for your specific country as regulations can change at any time. Also, you might want to compare Overseas Student Health Cover offered by different providers to see which one best compliment your reciprocal Medicare benefits.

What are the eligibility criteria?

International students and their spouse or partner may be eligible for OSHC. This generally includes your children or stepchildren who are under the age of eighteen and not married.

Take note: Before applying for a student visa, some other requirements need to be met. For example, a medical health examination, having proof of sufficient funds, and being able to speak English at a proficient level. Please visit the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs website for a complete list of criteria.

It is possible to apply for an Australian Student Visa at any age, but special conditions may apply for students under 18 years of age.

What does it cover?

The Australian Department of Health stipulates that all OSHC policies should cover certain benefits and amounts, typically those listed in the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). The following treatments and services generally are included; however, the benefit amount usually depends on the health fund and policy you choose:

What is not covered?

Benefits differ between health funds. It’s worth checking their Private Health Information Statement (PHIS) to confirm what is and is not covered. The following treatments are generally not covered by OSHC insurance providers.

How to get student health cover

Students can usually purchase an OSHC policy directly from specific health insurance providers. Visit their website, request a quote and apply online.

You might also be able to arrange appropriate Australian health insurance through your university. Universities usually have a special agreement with an exclusive health fund that provides their students with special rates. However, when choosing to buy insurance through your university, you might be limited to only one provider and won’t be able to compare prices and benefits from other major brands.

Whichever option you choose, make sure to take your health, budget, and stage of life into consideration before deciding on a policy that meets your requirements.

Compare overseas student health cover

According to our research, the health funds which provide OSHC in 2020 include:

How Much does OSHC cost in Australia?

Your health insurance premium generally depends on your choice of health fund and the type and level of cover. Other factors that might affect your costs include the length of your visa, as well as your family dynamic, for example, do you want a policy for single adult, couple or family with kids. The state you’ll be living in could also affect the premium you’ll pay.

How to claim for OSHC

Claiming for treatments and services covered by your health insurance company can vary depending on your provider. In some cases, the cost of treatments and services might be directly forwarded to your health insurance company for payment. In other instances, you might have to pay the medical bill first, then make an OHSC claim from your provider.

Depending on your health fund, claims can usually be submitted online or by post. Both methods typically involve getting a reference number for the claim and submitting the claim together with your original invoices or receipts.

Frequently asked questions

  • Do you still need OSHC if you have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement?

    You typically still require OSHC to be granted an Australian Student Visa, even if you come from a country with a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement. The agreements may vary depending on the country you’re from. Even if you are eligible for reciprocal benefits, some services might not be covered, and you will generally have to pay out of your pocket.
  • Can you enter Australia before your OSHC starts?

    Generally, no. Your OSHC policy needs to be accepted before entering Australia, as you’ll need to provide proof of this policy before you can get your student visa approved. Your policy will usually take effect from the moment you arrive in the country.
  • Can you extend your overseas student health cover?

    Typically, Yes. OSHC cover is mandatory for the complete duration of your stay. If your studies in Australia continue for longer than initially estimated, you’ll usually have to extend your OSCH cover as well.
  • What is the cheapest overseas student health cover?

    The cheapest OSHC policy depends on your chosen health fund, cover type and level of cover. Other factors that might influence your premium include the duration of your stay and whether your policy is for a single adult, couple or family. When looking for cheap overseas student health cover, you might want to shop around and compare policy benefits and pricing from health funds offering OSHC.
  • Does your OSHC cover you outside of Australia?

    No, OSHC generally covers medical and hospital treatments within Australia only. Treatments and services received outside of Australia are generally not covered even if needed while travelling to or from Australia. International health insurance or specific travel insurance policies might be more suitable for health services received outside of Australia.
  • Does overseas student health insurance cover pregnancy?

    Generally, pregnancy might be covered by your OSHC policy; however, certain conditions will usually have to be met. For example, there is generally a 12-month waiting period before you can claim for pregnancy benefits, depending on your health fund and level of cover.
  • Can you get an OSCH refund at tax time?

    International students typically cannot claim a tax rebate on overseas student health insurance because you usually aren’t eligible for Medicare and might not be earning an income.

    If you’re from a country with a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement and qualify for Medicare, you could potentially be eligible for a tax refund. However, you’ll likely need to meet the income thresholds of earning $140,000 or less for singles and $280,000 or less for couples.
  • Does OSHC pay for dental?

    Generally, OSHC policies do not cover dental. However, general treatments like dental might be available when purchasing an Extras policy from select health insurance providers.
  • Does OSHC cover cancer treatment?

    OSHC might pay for in-hospital cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy. However, there may be certain conditions or waiting periods (typically 12 months for pre-existing conditions) that must be met. Please confirm with your provider to see what is covered and what the limitations might be.
  • Can you switch OSCH providers?

    Yes, you can generally change OSCH providers at any time. Please make sure your new policy is accepted and activated before cancelling your old policy, so you’ll always be covered during your stay in Australia. Before you switch, you might want to compare benefits, exclusions, and possible waiting periods from major health funds.

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