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Insurance for international travel and overseas medical costs

Australian health insurance typically doesn't cover international travel or overseas medical costs. Instead, you'll need a solid travel insurance policy.

What you need to know

  • Medicare and health insurance stops at the border - it will not cover you overseas.
  • If you are Aussie and need overseas medical cover, travel insurance is what you need.
  • If you are coming to Australia from overseas and need cover, check out OVHC.

Does Medicare or health insurance cover me overseas?

Private or public, Australia has one rule about it's health care - it's gotta happen in Australia. Neither Medicare or domestic private health insurance will cover you while you're overseas. Once you're back you can head straight to hospital and get treatment as usual. But if you're outside of Australia when something goes wrong, you'll have to pick up the bill - unless you have travel insurance.

How to cover overseas medical costs

If you're travelling and want medical coverage, you're going to want a good travel insurance policy. Travel insurance covers you for medical costs while you're in a different country, but it can also covers you for trip disruptions, lost or stolen belongings and more. Medical care in a different country can be really expensive - like, hundreds of thousands of dollars. As far as we're concerned here at your favourite website that starts with the letter 'f', travel insurance is essential.

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Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCAs)

Okay, so there is one exception to the overseas medical cover rule above, and that's Reciprocal Health Care Agreements, or RHCAs. If you're an Aussie citizen, there are 11 countries where the cost of medically necessary care will be covered for you.

However, that's no excuse to not get travel insurance. Even if you're only travelling to countries with an agreement, travel insurance can cover more costs than the agreement will include - repatriation and emergency evacuation for example. In any case, your health is way too important to risk - get travel insurance!

Australia has RHCAs in place with the following countries:

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

Health insurance for visitors to Australia

So far we've been talking about Aussie citizens. But what if you're stumbled upon this page on your way to Australia from overseas? Well, most working, study and visitor visas in Australia have the 8501 visa condition. This condition requires you to have adequate health and medical coverage for your entire trip to Australia.

You can get this with a comprehensive travel insurance policy, but a more comprehensive option is to get Overseas Visitor Hospital Cover (OVHC) with an Australian insurance provider. Especially for working and student visas, this really is the better option. Local health funds have pre-established relationships with local medical professionals and hospitals and will do a better job of serving you while you're here. Also, because the companies have custom made their policies to suit the requirements of the Department of Immigration, you'll never have to worry about the visa condition.

What about medical tourism?

We can't talk about overseas medical costs without covering medical tourism. Whether it's heading to Turkey for a hair transplant or South East Asia for a new set of teeth, medical tourism is both on the rise, and absolutely not covered by Medicare or any type of health or travel insurance.

Now we're not here to tell you what to do...but you really should not go overseas for a medical treatment. Don't just take it from us, the Aussie government agrees. Medical tourism is dangerous, scams are common, and if something goes wrong you could be on the hook for a massive overseas medical bill that won't be covered. There are some horror stories out there.

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