Expat Health Insurance: Shanghai city urban travel Asian woman tourist. Multiracial girl relaxing enjoying looking at city lights at night in Pudong, Shanghai, China with chinese landmark. Multicultural young professional.

Health insurance for expats

What is health insurance for expats? Protect yourself while you're working abroad, compare policies and get covered.

If your working life takes you away from Australia's shores, expat health insurance is designed to ensure that you and your family won’t be left with significant medical bills if you suffer a serious illness or injury, covering everything from hospital accommodation and treatment fees to medical repatriation to Australia.

Why should you consider expat health insurance?

Health insurance for expatriates enables you and your family to access a high level of medical care wherever you are in the world. While the standard of healthcare in Australia is quite high, the medical care and treatment on offer internationally can vary greatly from one country to the next.

With this in mind, expat health insurance is essential to ensuring that the healthcare needs of you and your family are always looked after.

What is covered by health insurance for expatriates?

Although the benefits offered by expat health insurance differ from one policy to the next, comprehensive expat health insurance will usually cover:

  • Hospital accommodation
  • Surgical and theatre fees
  • In-hospital medicines
  • Nursing care
  • Day surgery
  • Specialists’ fees
  • Pathology, x-rays, diagnostic tests
  • Prosthetic implants and appliances
  • Rehabilitation
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Ambulance transportation and treatment
  • Cancer treatment
  • 24/7 emergency medical advice and assistance
  • Medical repatriation to Australia
  • Physio, chiro, osteo, speech therapy, dietitian, natural therapies

Who offers this type of cover?

There are two ways you can access health insurance for expatriates:

  • Through your employer if they offer cover for workers overseas.
  • By taking out an international health insurance policy yourself directly from an insurer.

Major global insurers such as Bupa and Allianz both offer international health insurance solutions for individuals and their families, as well as policies designed for businesses to offer to their employees. Health insurance for expats is also available from major insurance providers such as QBE and GU Health, so it is important to shop around and compare your cover options.

What is the difference between health and travel insurance?

If you are heading overseas and have started to compare your insurance options, you might be a little confused as to whether health insurance or travel insurance is right for you. However, there are a couple of key differences that set these two types of cover apart.

  • Health insurance for expats. This is designed for Australians who will be spending an extended period of time abroad. With this in mind, expat health insurance includes cover for day-to-day medical expenses like visits to the doctor, x-rays and pathology, as well as maternity care and dental treatment. Policies also include cover for emergency medical expenses and repatriation to Australia.
  • Travel insurance. On the other hand, this type of insurance is more suited to cover the needs of Australians taking shorter trips overseas. It typically does not include any cover for everyday healthcare expenses and services such as maternity care. Instead, the medical cover provided by travel insurance is designed to provide protection if you suffer an unexpected medical emergency while overseas. Travel insurance also provides cover for a range of other travel-related risks, including lost luggage, travel delays and cancellation fees.

Do I need a policy if I am covered by the RHCA?

Australia has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) in place with the governments of 11 countries around the world:

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

The RHCA allows you to access subsidised healthcare under the public health system in place at that destination; in other words, you’ll be covered by that country’s version of Medicare. Although the medical cover available under an RHCA is certainly beneficial, it has its limits:

  • It does not provide cover for a wide range of medical expenses, including ambulance services, dental treatment, elective treatments and treatment in private hospitals.
  • It does not cover the cost of medical repatriation to Australia.

This is why you should not think of the RHCA as a replacement for health insurance. Having a policy in place guarantees peace of mind and ensures that you can enjoy comprehensive medical cover around the world.

Can I suspend my Australian health insurance policy while overseas?

All Australian health funds allow you to suspend your domestic health insurance policy if you are heading overseas. Your time spent abroad will have to fall within a minimum and maximum trip length threshold for your policy to be eligible for suspension, and these periods vary between providers. Additional rules enforced by health funds can include the following:

  • Premium contributions must up to date, and in some cases paid in advance of your date of departure.
  • The policyholder must of held cover for a certain period of time, typically 12 months.
  • The suspension period does not count towards waiting periods.
  • Suspension for overseas travel can only be applied for once a year.

Remember to check your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) or contact your health fund directly if you are planning to suspend cover, as each provider will have their own guidelines. You can also use the table below to view the minimum and maximum trip length thresholds for each health fund.

Health fundCan you suspend your policy?Minimum length of tripMaximum suspension period
HIF health insurance
  • Yes
  • 2 months
  • 4 months 
  • 2 years 
  • 4 months 
health.com.au health insurance
  • Yes
  • 2 months
  • n/a
Health Care Insurance
    • Yes 
  • 2 years
  • 28 days
CBHS Health Fund
  • Restricted health fund 
  • Yes 
  • 6 weeks
  • 3 years
AHM health insurance
  • Yes 
  • 30 days
  • 2 years
Australian Unity
    • Yes 
  • 2 months 
  • 1 month 
  • 2 years
GMHBA health insurance
    • Yes 
  • 6 months
  • 3 years
HCF health insurance
  • Yes 
  • 30 days
  • 2 years
nib health insurance
  • Yes 
  • 2 months
  • 2 years
Transport Health insurance
  • Yes 
  • 30 days
  • 1 year
Health fundCan you suspend your policy?Minimum length of tripMaximum suspension period
ahm
  • Yes 
  • 30 days
  • 2 years
Australian Unity
  • Yes 
  • 2 months 
  • 1 month 
  • 2 years
Budget Direct
  • Yes 
  • 2 months
  • 3 years
Bupa
  • Yes 
  • 2 months
  • 2 years
Cessnock District Health Fund
  • Yes
  • 2 months
  • 2 years
CUA Health
  • Yes
  • 2 months
  • 3 years
GMF
  • Yes
  • 3 months
  • 3 years
GMHBA
  • Yes 
  • 6 months
  • 3 years
GU Health
  • Yes 
  • 1 month
  • 3 years
HBF
  • Yes 
  • 2 months
  • Indefinite
HCF
  • Yes 
  • 30 days
  • 2 years
Health Care Insurance
  • Yes 
  • 2 years
  • 28 days
health.com.au
  • Yes
  • 2 months
  • n/a
hif
  • Yes
  • 2 months
  • 4 months 
  • 2 years 
  • 4 months 
Latrobe Health Services
  • Yes 
  • n/a
  • n/a
Medibank
  • Yes 
  • 2 months
  • 4 years
Mildura Health Fund
  • Yes 
  • 2 weeks
  • 2 years
nib
  • Yes 
  • 2 months
  • 2 years
onemedifund
  • Yes 
  • n/a
  • 2 years
Peoplecare
  • Yes
  • 4 weeks
  • 2 years
Phoenix Health Fund
  • Yes
  • 3 months
  • n/a
Queensland Country Health Fund 
  • Yes 
  • 4 weeks
  • 2 years
St. Lukes Health
  • Yes 
  • 2 weeks
  • 2 months
Transport Health
  • Yes 
  • 30 days
  • 1 year
Westfund
  • Yes 
  • 2 months
  • 2 years
ACA Health
  • Restricted health fund 
  • Yes 
  • 4 months 
  • No minimum length 
  • 2 years 
  • Indefinite 
CBHS health fund
  • Restricted health fund 
  • Yes
  • 6 weeks
  • 3 years
Defence Health
  • Restricted health fund
  • Yes 
  • 28 days
  • 2 years
Doctors Health Fund
  • Restricted health fund 
  • Yes 
  • n/a
  • n/a
Navy Health
  • Restricted health fund
  • Yes
  • 1 month
  • 2 years
Police Health
  • Restricted health fund
  • Yes 
  • 2 weeks
  • 2 years
Reserve Bank Health Society
  • Restricted health fund
  • Yes 
  • 3 months
  • 40 months
RT Health
  • Restricted health fund 
  • Yes 
  • 28 days
  • 2 years
Teachers Health Fund
  • Restricted health fund 
  • Yes
  • 2 months
  • 3 years
TUH
  • Restricted health fund 
  • Yes 
  • 2 months
  • 3 years
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