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Expat Health Insurance

Australian expat health insurance is a specialist type of cover that can protect your health and finances while you're working abroad.

What you need to know

  • If you live or work overseas for an extended period of time, expat health insurance can give your family access to a high level of medical care.
  • Travel insurance generally does not include coverage for everyday healthcare expenses and services such as maternity care.
  • Depending on your situation, there are times when you may need to get both expat health cover and travel insurance.

If your working life takes you away from Australia's shores, expat health insurance is designed specifically for you. It can cover you for everything from hospital accommodation and treatment fees to medical repatriation to Australia.

What is Australian expat health insurance?

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.

Australian expat health insurance is a type of health service that allows you and your family to access a high level of medical care wherever you are in the world. It can cover you for:

Hospital cover

Hospital expenses

Health insurance policies for Australians living overseas can cover hospital expenses you may encounter whilst living overseas. This can include treatment for accidents, illnesses such as cancer and, in some cases, elective surgery.

Optical extras cover

Ancillary services

Like Australia, many countries will charge you for out of hospital services like dental, physio and optical. Some expat health insurance policies can cover you for this type of care.

Plane

Medical repatriation

In some cases, urgent or complex treatment requires you to return to Australia. Some policies can cover you for emergency evacuation costs.

What does health insurance for expats cover?

Although the benefits offered by expat health insurance differ from one policy to the next, comprehensive expat health insurance will usually cover the following medical services.

  • 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

Finder survey: How many Australians worry about being able to pay for medical bills?

Response
No45.73%
Yes37.38%
Somewhat16.9%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1006 Australians, December 2023

Who offers health insurance for Australian's living overseas?

There are two ways that you can access health insurance for expatriates.

Number 1

Through your employer, if they offer cover for workers overseas.

Number 2

By taking out an international health insurance policy yourself directly from an insurer.

Major global insurers such as Bupa offer international health insurance solutions for individuals and their families, as well as policies designed for businesses to offer to their employees.

What is the difference between health and travel insurance?

There are a couple of key differences between health and travel insurance that will help you decide which one you need.

Health insurance

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

Travel insurance

This type of insurance is typically 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.

William Copper, Marketing Director of William Russell

William Copper

"Purchasing insurance can be a tricky business. These two products are often confused in travel guides and on the internet. Sure, both travel insurance and international health insurance will cover you when you're spending time abroad. And you may have some cover in your home country with a local health insurance policy.

Some travel insurance products include an element of cover for private medical treatment, while international health policies may come with an optional travel insurance rider. But having the wrong cover might leave you with unexpected medical expenses during international travel.

It's important to stress, however, that they're two very different kinds of insurance, designed for two very different purposes. It's possible that, depending upon your circumstances, you might want to purchase both products.

You should pick the right product for your circumstances. Suppose you're only travelling abroad for a short period; in that case, travel insurance is probably what you need.

If you'll be living or working abroad for an extended period, and you want to ensure you have cover for any medical treatment you may need, then an international [or, expat] health insurance policy might be more appropriate for you."

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.
RHCA countries that don't require health insurance
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 beneficial, it has its limits so you still may want to consider health insurance.

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

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