Travelling to Australia? Learn how OVHC works and compare cover.
If you're planning to come to Australia for work, or are an overseas student who has recently graduated, it's a good idea to get health insurance designed for overseas visitors. Not only is OVHC mandatory for some visas, but it can save you having to pay significant out-of-pocket medical expenses, as overseas visitors are typically unable to enrol in the Australian public health system. Find out more and compare policies to find one that works for you.
*Pricing is based on a single male planning to live and work in the State of New South Wales on a working visa who is not applying for permanent residency, is not from a country that Australia has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) with and is not eligible for cover under Medicare. Prices reflect the April 1 premium rise and are accurate for February 2018 but are subject to change in the future.
Contents of this article
What is Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC)?
OVHC is private health insurance for overseas visitors to Australia. It covers a portion of your medical, hospital and health-related expenses during your stay down under.
Without any OVHC in place, you could face extensive medical bills if you require treatment while in Australia.
Why do I need it?
As an overseas visitor to Australia, you generally won’t be able to access free or subsidised medical care through Australia’s universal health care system, Medicare. Unless you’re visiting from a country with which Australia has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (more information on this is below), you could face significant out-of-pocket medical costs – even if you’re treated in a public hospital, your hospital fees alone could exceed $1,000 a day.
OVHC helps reduce those out-of-pocket costs. While the exact level of cover provided varies depending on the policy you choose, OVHC will generally cover the cost of medically-required hospital admissions and a portion of doctor's fees.
It’s an essential consideration for overseas visitors on that basis alone, and that’s before we even consider the fact that OVHC is a mandatory requirement on many Australian visas. This health insurance requirement is known as visa condition 8501.
Condition 8501 requires applicants for certain visas to take out adequate private health insurance for the duration of their stay in Australia.
How do you know whether the policy you choose can be considered adequate health insurance? Most overseas visitors health insurance offered by Australian health funds and general insurers is tailored to meet these requirements, but you should still check that your policy has the following features so that it's compliant:
Adequate health insurance criteria
Take a close look at the eligibility requirements when applying for a visa, or contact the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to find out if condition 8501 applies to you. Popular visas that feature the condition include:
- Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457)
- Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485)
- Majority of other temporary working visa subclasses
- All student visas (except for Norwegian, Belgian and some Swedish students)
If you are coming to Australia to study, you'll need to take out a different form of visitor health insurance called Overseas Students Health Cover (OSHC).
457 visa health insurance
Your job taking you to Australia? Learn more about health insurance for 457 work visas.
485 visa health insurance
Staying in Oz after you graduate? Find out how to transition from OSHC to OVHC.
489 visa health insurance
Want to live and work in regional Australia? The 489 visa also requires health cover.
What’s covered by OVHC policies?
The cover provided varies between the OVHC policy you choose. Not only are there policies available for holders of specific visas, but there are also multiple levels of cover available to suit different budgets. However, most policies cover:
- Medically necessary in-hospital treatment
- A portion of doctor’s fees
- Emergency ambulance transport
- Surgically implanted prostheses
- Some pharmacy costs
Most policies will also include a benefit for medical evacuation or repatriation. However, make sure you check the maximum benefit limit that applies, as in many cases it will not be enough to cover the total cost of evacuation and will only help reduce your out-of-pocket expenses.
If you choose a high-level OVHC policy you may also be covered for:
- Out-of-hospital medical treatment
- Extras services such as dental, optical and physio
What’s not covered?
OVHC won’t cover all the medical expenses you incur while in Australia. There are a wide range of procedures and services that aren’t covered, including:
- Non-emergency ambulance
- Elective cosmetic surgery
- Procedures that Medicare does not recognise
- IVF and other assisted reproductive services
The exact list of excluded services varies between insurers, so take a closer look at the policy document before choosing a policy.
Overseas visitors to Australia who are not on specific working or skilled visas are still able to purchase a policy, and many health funds will offer non-working visa health insurance for:
- eVisitor (subclass 651)
- Electronic Travel Authority (subclass 601)
- Visitor (subclass 600)
- Student Guardian visa (subclass 580)
- Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462)
- New Zealand Citizen Family Relationship (temporary) visa (subclass 461)
- Special Category visa (subclass 444) for New Zealand citizens
- Bridging visas (subclass 010, 020, 030, 040, 041, 051)
|Health fund||Hospital cover for overseas visitors||Extras cover available or included?||More info|
|Health fund||Hospital cover for overseas visitors||Extras cover available or included?||More info|
|Allianz Global Assistance||More info|
|Australian Unity||More info|
|Frank Health Insurance||More info|
How can you find the right OVHC policy for your stay in Australia? The best way to find value for money is to compare a range of options, so make sure to consider the following factors when weighing up the pros and cons of different insurers:
- What’s covered. Take a look at the full list of included benefits and benefit limits. Does the policy cover everything you want? How do the maximum benefit limits compare with other insurers? Does it meet your visa requirements?
- Is there extras cover? If you want cover for dental, optical and other general treatments, check to see what extras benefits are included. How much more do they add to the cost of your policy?
- What isn’t covered. Certain services may only be partially covered by your fund, while others may not be covered at all. For example, cosmetic procedures or medical care received outside Australia will be excluded from cover. Check the list of restrictions and exclusions for more information.
- Waiting periods. Check the fine print of your policy to find out how long you will have to wait before you can claim a benefit. For example, pre-existing conditions will either attract a waiting period of 12 months or not be covered at all.
- Pharmacy benefits. Most overseas visitor health cover policies only offer limited cover for pharmaceuticals. They will typically not provide adequate cover for the cost of expensive drugs such as those used in chemotherapy.
- Your budget. It’s commonly recommended that you purchase the highest level of hospital cover that fits your budget. If you need to lower the cost of cover, you could opt to include an excess or co-payment if these features are available.
Reciprocal Health Care Agreements – do you still need OVHC?
Most visitors to Australia are unable to enrol in Medicare, the basis of Australia's health care system which covers many health care costs. However, there is one exception to this rule. If you come from a country that has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) with Australia then you will be able to access some free or subsidised healthcare while down under.
The following countries have an RHCA in place:
If you’re visiting Australia from one of these countries, there’s no requirement for you to maintain an adequate level of health insurance cover for the duration of your stay. However, there are several important reasons why it’s still a good idea to consider buying OVHC, as the protection you can access under the RHCA is quite limited.
RHCAs do not cover:
- Ambulance costs
- Elective treatment
- Dental care
- Medical evacuation to your home country
- Private hospital accommodation and treatment, or treatment as a private patient in a public hospital
- Any treatment that is not immediately necessary
What does this mean for visitors from RHCA countries? While you don’t have to buy OVHC for your entire stay in Australia, it’s definitely worth thinking about getting cover anyway. The additional protection and peace of mind that OVHC offers could certainly come in handy if something goes wrong while you’re here.
Reciprocal Health Care Agreements
Find out more about the subsidised medical care offered under the RHCA.
What is Medicare and how does it work?
Get a detailed breakdown of Australia's public health system and what it can offer overseas visitors.
Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)
OSHC is private health insurance designed to help international students cover their medical and hospital costs while in Australia. If you’re an overseas student visiting Australia to study on a temporary student visa, you’ll need to have OSHC in order to gain entry to Australia.
With the exception of Belgian, Norwegian and Swedish students, all international students must take out OSHC for the duration of their stay in Australia to satisfy visa condition 8501.
While the extent of benefits available varies depending on the policy you choose, OSHC provides cover for:
- Out-of-hospital medical services
- In-hospital medical services
- Accommodation in a shared ward in a public or private hospital
- Day surgery accommodation
For more information on how OSHC works and how to choose a policy, check out our comprehensive OSHC guide.
What health insurance do I need for a...
The 405 visa is for self-funded retirees without any dependants who want to live in Australia during their retirement years. It’s a mandatory requirement for 405 visa holders to take out OVHC; find out how to select appropriate cover in our 405 visa guide.
The 408 Temporary Activity visa allows visitors to enter Australia for a wide range of purposes, including participating in an Australian research project, working in a skilled position under a staff exchange arrangement, or working in the entertainment industry. It’s a mandatory requirement for 408 visa holders to have adequate health insurance for the duration of their stay.
The 417 Working Holiday visa allows overseas visitors to enter Australia and work here for up to a year. There’s no mandatory requirement for 417 visa holders to take out health insurance, but it’s still well worth considering OVHC to reduce the financial impact of out-of-pocket medical expenses during your stay.
456 & 400 visa?
The Short Stay Business visa subclass 456 was replaced by the Temporary Work (Short Stay Specialist) visa subclass 400 in November 2016. The 400 visa allows overseas visitors to travel to Australia to participate in highly specialised, short-term, non-ongoing work. While there’s no mandatory health insurance requirement in order to qualify for the visa, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection recommends taking out some level of health insurance cover for your stay.
Heading to Australia on a Temporary Work (Skilled) visa? The 457 visa allows you to love and work in Australia for up to four years, and you’ll need to take out adequate health insurance for the duration of your stay to ensure that you meet visa condition 8501. Check out our 457 visa health insurance guide for details on how to choose the right policy.
The Temporary Graduate (485) visa is designed to help international students who have recently graduated from an Australian educational institution continue to live, work and study in Australia. Condition 8501 applies to the 485 visa, so you’ll need to maintain adequate health insurance cover for the entirety of your stay.
The Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa allows overseas skilled workers to live and work in regional Australian areas for up to four years. One of the eligibility criteria for this visa is that you must have adequate health insurance, so you’ll need to shop around for OVHC before you can qualify for the 489 visa.
A bridging visa is a short-term visa which allows you to stay in Australia while you’re either waiting for your application for another visa to be processed, or while you’re making arrangements to leave the country. The health insurance requirements for people staying in Australia on a bridging visa vary depending on the type of visa you’re applying for, or whether you’re applying for permanent residency. Check out our guide to health insurance for bridging visas for more information.
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