Are you studying in Australia on a visa? Guide to travel insurance for overseas students.
Overseas students studying in Australia are not covered by Medicare, so the Australian Government requires them to take out Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) to be eligible for a student visa.
This guide looks at OSHC, as well as other insurances such as travel insurance, that overseas students might wish to consider to protect themselves during their time in Australia.
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Can I get travel insurance while in Australia?
Travel insurance provides cover for your trip to Australia, for while you are here and for your trip home again, and covers what OSHC does not. This includes 24/7 emergency medical treatment and repatriation, personal liability, trip cancellations and delays and lost, stolen or damaged luggage and personal effects.
You can obtain travel insurance before you arrive and while you are in Australia, but you must be within a certain age range, plan to spend the majority of your time in Australia and have adequate health cover in place to be eligible.
Many students organise their Australian travel insurance through the educational institution they plan to study at and this may be the most affordable option, as such institutions are often able to purchase discounted cover for their overseas students.
Source: Australian Government’s Australian Education International 2013 international student enrolments data.
What other cover do overseas students need?
All students studying in Australia are required to have adequate health cover for the duration of their stay. This may be in the form of Overseas Student Health Cover or in some limited circumstances, cover under a reciprocal agreement Australia may have with your country of origin.
What is Overseas Student Health Cover?
Overseas Student Health Cover is health cover for those visiting Australia temporarily on a student visa. Australia’s public health care system (Medicare) is only available to Australian citizens and permanent residents, so visitors need to have health cover in case they are ill or injured and require medical treatment.
OSHC provides cover for hospital and general medical treatment, emergency ambulance assistance and prescription medicines covered under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
The Australian Government requires all overseas students to have OSHC as a condition of their student visa. It must be maintained for the duration of their stay and extended if their stay is extended, otherwise their visa may be cancelled.
Source: All Sector Year To Date Enrolments by Top 10 Nationalities by State/Territory for December 2015
Who needs to take out OSHC?
The Australian Government requires all overseas students to take out OSHC for the duration of their stay in Australia. For the purposes of OSHC, an overseas student is defined as someone who is undertaking or plans to undertake formal studies in Australia and who holds a student visa or a bridging visa while applying for a student visa.
If a student has dependants with them in Australia (e.g. a spouse or children under 18 years of age), they must also be covered under the student’s OSHC policy, which must be a suitable family plan. Dependant children who are over 18 or who turn 19 while in Australia must arrange their own suitable alternative health cover for the duration of their stay.
Who doesn’t need OSHC cover?
The exceptions to the rule regarding mandatory Overseas Student Health Cover are students from Belgium, Norway and Sweden. The Australian Government has the following arrangements with these countries:
- Belgium. Belgian students are covered under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) between Australia and Belgium and are eligible to seek medical treatment through Australia’s public health system.
- Norway. Norwegian students are provided with health insurance cover by the Norwegian Government and are exempt from the compulsory OSHC visa requirement.
- Sweden. Swedish students who have insurance provided by CSN International (the Swedish National Board of Student Aid) or Kammarkollegiet (the Swedish Legal, Financial and Administration Agency) are exempt from the OSHC requirement, but those who do not have this cover must take out OSHC.
These three groups of students are eligible for medically necessary treatment only, which includes free treatment as a public patient in a public hospital and access to PBS subsidised medicines. However, as this is only rudimentary health cover, many Belgian, Norwegian and Swedish students opt to take out additional cover through OSHC or private health insurance.
Source: End of Year Summary of International Student Enrolment Data1 – Australia – 2015
What does OSHC cover?
The level of cover provided by OSHC will depend on the Australian insurer. At its most basic, OSHC includes cover for:
- Out of hospital medical services up to the listed Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) benefit amount (100% for GP visits and 85% for specialists)
- In hospital medical services such as surgery (100% of the MBS fee)
- Shared ward accommodation in a public hospital
- Day surgery accommodation
- Emergency ambulance services
- Surgically implanted prostheses included on the Federal Government's Prostheses List (100% of the listed cost)
- Pharmaceutical benefits up to $50 per item, with a maximum of $300 a year or $600 for families
Insurers may offer a variety of different OSHC products ranging from the basic compulsory cover outlined above to more comprehensive products. These may include additional benefits and services such as access to some private hospitals and optional ancillary benefits such as optical, dental and physiotherapy. As with all health insurance products, the level of cover provided will dictate the cost of your premiums, so it pays to shop around when purchasing Overseas Student Health Cover.
What isn’t covered?
Overseas Student Health Cover will not cover you in any of the following circumstances:
- Treatment that was prearranged before coming to Australia
- Treatment required while in transit to or from Australia
- Transportation into or out of Australia for any reason
- Treatment covered by compensation or damages entitlements
- Ancillary services such as optical, dental and physio, unless included in your policy
- Medicines or treatments not prescribed by a doctor or not included in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule
- Any gap amount payable by you due to charges in excess of the MBS fee
- Services or treatment related to assisted reproduction (including IVF)
- Elective cosmetic surgery
Are there any waiting periods?
Waiting periods apply to OSHC policies in the following circumstances:
- Treatment for a pre-existing condition or secondary condition arising from it. No cover during the first 12 months, unless deemed an emergency
- Treatment for a pre-existing psychiatric condition. No cover during the first two months, unless it is an emergency
- Treatment for a pregnancy-related condition. No cover during the first 12 months, unless it is an emergency
The waiting period commences from the date you arrive in Australia or the date your student visa is granted, whichever is the later date.
Who offers Overseas Visitors Health Cover?
The following list provides a brief snapshot of Australian insurers who offer Overseas Student Health Cover:
Australian Unity Overseas Visitors Health Cover
Australian Unity has a range of options that are suited to non-residents. The benefits include:
- Assistance with medical fees
- Emergency room fees
- Emergency ambulance
- Day surgery
- Theatre and accommodation fees
HCF Overseas Visitors Health Cover
HCF Overseas Visitor Health Cover is designed for international visitors and cover includes:
- Adenoid, appendix, and tonsil removal
- Hospital accommodation
- Intensive care
nib Overseas Visitors Health Cover
nib offers Overseas Visitors Health Cover a subsidiary called IMAN Australian Health Plans. Benefits include:
- Accommodation costs associated with hospitalisation
- Ambulance cover within Australia
- Extras cover
- Repatriation benefit
Speak with a broker about getting a OSHC policy today
OSHC is a necessity for students studying in Australia, but as this guide shows, the compulsory element only provides basic cover, so you may wish to consider additional insurance or a higher level of cover to protect yourself and your dependants during your stay.