Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)

Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)

If you're coming to Australia to study you'll need health cover. Find out what to look for in a policy.

If you’re coming to Australia to study, the Australian Government’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection requires that you take out an adequate level of private health insurance for the duration of your stay. This insurance will help you meet the medical and health care costs you incur while in Australia, and it’s a mandatory requirement if you want to qualify for a visa. Private health insurance for international students is known as overseas student health cover (OSHC) and is offered by a select range of Australian health funds. Read on for more information on how to find the right policy for your cover needs.

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What is OSHC and what does it cover?

OSHC is health insurance specifically designed to meet the health care needs of international students who are studying in Australia. These policies are designed to help you cover the cost of the medical and hospital care you receive during your time in Australia, and also provide a limited level of cover for ambulance services and pharmaceuticals. OSHC acts as a sort of financial safety net for international students. While the exact cover provided differs depending on the policy you choose, all covers must include at least the following benefits:

  • 100% of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) fee for in-patient medical services, for example, if you are hospitalised and undergo surgery
  • Accommodation in a shared ward in a public or private hospital
  • The benefit amount listed in the MBS for out-of-hospital medical services, for example, a visit to a general practitioner (GP)
  • Day surgery accommodation
  • Some prosthetic devices
  • Pharmaceuticals (a limit of up to $50 per pharmaceutical item, up to a maximum of $300 per year)
  • Ambulance services

The benefits above will be included in a basic policy, but many insurers will also offer more comprehensive policies that provide a wider range of benefits, for example, extras cover for services such as optical and dental. By shopping around and comparing policies, you can find a policy to suit your cover needs.

What do OSHC products cover?

OSHC is only available from a limited selection of Australian health funds. Check out the table below for details on what each fund covers in its policies:


AHM OSHC is designed to cover a wide range of medical and hospital expenses for overseas students, including:

  • GP visits and specialist services
  • Pathology and x-rays
  • Public and private hospital accommodation and treatment
  • In-hospital doctors’ fees
  • Emergency ambulance services
  • Prescription medicines
  • Surgically implanted prostheses


nib’s OSHC provides cover for an extensive range of medical and hospital expenses, including:

  • Public and private hospital accommodation and treatment
  • Theatre fees
  • In-hospital doctors’ fees
  • In-hospital pharmaceuticals and out-of-hospital prescription medications
  • Surgically implanted prostheses
  • Out-of-hospital medical costs such as GP visits, pathology and radiology
  • Emergency ambulance transport


OSHC from Allianz Global Assistance is available in two forms: Standard and Essentials. Both policies provide cover for:

  • Out-of-hospital medical treatment, such as x-rays and GP visits
  • In-hospital medical treatment and accommodation
  • Doctors’ fees and theatre fees
  • In-hospital pharmaceuticals and out-of-hospital prescription medicines
  • Surgically implanted prostheses
  • Emergency ambulance transport

Allianz also offers an OSHC Extras policy to provide cover for dental, optical, physio, chiro and more.


If you choose OSHC from Bupa, you’ll receive cover for a wide range of hospital and medical treatment expenses. This includes cover for:

  • Hospital accommodation
  • Theatre fees
  • Intensive care and labour ward fees
  • In-hospital pharmaceuticals
  • Doctors’ fees
  • Physio, occupational therapy and other allied health services received in hospital
  • Surgically implanted prostheses
  • Outpatient pharmaceuticals
  • Emergency ambulance services

You also have the option to add one of five extras cover policies to your OSHC if you wish.


OSHC from Medibank Private is available in two forms: Essentials OSHC and Comprehensive OSHC. Both products are designed to meet your visa requirements. The Essentials policy includes comprehensive hospital cover for accommodation, treatment, pharmaceuticals and in-hospital doctors’ fees, while out-of-hospital medical costs (GP visits, pathology and radiology) and prescribed pharmaceuticals are also covered along with unlimited emergency ambulance transport.
Comprehensive OSHC also offers high-level hospital cover for accommodation, treatment, theatre fees and doctors’ fees, plus out-of-hospital medical costs like GP visits, pathology and radiology. Out-of-hospital pharmaceuticals are also covered, along with unlimited emergency ambulance transport and on-the-spot treatment.

Who needs OSHC?

OSHC is a mandatory requirement for any student who wants to travel to Australia on a 500 visa. OSHC must be taken out by overseas students undertaking formal study in Australia (whether at university, TAFE or secondary school), and their dependants. You will be classified as an “overseas student” for the purposes of OSHC if you are either:

  • The holder of a student visa
  • An applicant for a student visa
  • The holder of a bridging visa and you were the holder of a student visa immediately before being granted a bridging visa

The Australian Government’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection requires all overseas students to maintain OSHC for the entirety of their stay in Australia.

Who doesn’t need OSHC?

Belgian, Norwegian and some Swedish students are not required to purchase OSHC as part of the conditions of their student visa.

  • Belgian students. On the basis of the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) between the Australian and Belgian Governments, all Belgian students are considered to already have adequate health insurance in place. No OSHC is therefore needed to satisfy your visa requirements.
  • Norwegian students. An agreement between the Australian and Norwegian Governments means that all Norwegian students are provided with adequate health insurance by the Norwegian Government. The mandatory OSHC requirement is therefore waived.
  • Swedish students. The mandatory OSHC requirement may be waived for Swedish students in some cases. If you have insurance provided by CSN International (the Swedish National Board of Student Aid) or Kammarkollegiet (the Swedish Legal, Financial and Administration Agency), you will not need OSHC. All other Swedish students will need OSHC.

So if you’re a Belgian, Norwegian or Swedish student who is not required to purchase OSHC, you’ll be covered for medically necessary treatment under your country’s RHCA with Australia.

Can you switch OSHC provider?

Some educational institutions will have an agreement with a preferred OSHC provider. It’s entirely up to you whether you take out OSHC with that provider or another insurer, and you also have the freedom to transfer to another OSHC provider at any time. However, keep in mind that you may incur a “refund processing fee” if you transfer part-way through a cover period.

Can you take out cover with an overseas health fund?

No. Unfortunately, OSHC is only available from Australian insurance providers. This is because the Australian Government only has the power to monitor and regulate Australian health funds and ensure they offer an adequate level of cover for international students.

What isn’t covered?

There are various medical services and treatments for which OSHC will not pay any benefits, including:

  • Procedures not recognised by Medicare
  • Treatment you arrange before coming to Australia
  • Treatment you require while travelling to or from Australia
  • Transportation of an overseas student (or their dependant) into or out of Australia
  • The cost of treatment that can be otherwise covered by compensation or damages
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Non-emergency ambulance services
  • IVF and assisted reproductive services
  • Experimental treatment

What happens to loyalty limits when I change health funds?

There are no penalties for transferring from one OSHC provider to another. However, your cover will need to be up to date when you transfer if you want to avoid re-serving any waiting periods. If your cover is up to date, any waiting periods you have already served will transfer over to your new health fund. Make sure to specify the start date for cover from your new fund as the day after the cover from your previous fund ends. This will ensure that there is no lapse in membership and that the waiting periods you have served are still valid. Finally, remember that if you were covered by your previous OSHC provider for less than 12 months, you can serve the remaining waiting period with your new fund.

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