Overseas Student Health Cover

Why are international students required to have OSHC?

It is a condition of your student visa that you have continuous OSHC for the duration of your stay in Australia. Most Australians are covered by Australia’s national health insurance program, Medicare, which covers a significant amount of the costs required for healthcare services. While Medicare does not cover international students, OSHC allows international students to access health care without experiencing financial hardship.

Who needs OSHC?

All international students and their family members (partners and children under 18, for example) need OSHC. The only exceptions are Belgian students (who are covered by the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement between Australia and Belgium), Norwegian students (who are provided with health insurance by the Norwegian Government) and Swedish students who have international cover with the Swedish National Board of Student Aid (CSN) or Kammarkollegiet (Swedish students not covered by these agencies will need OSHC). New Zealand citizens residing in Australia can access Medicare benefits.

Who offers OSHC and how much will it cost?

The Australian Government Department of Health has approved the following health funds to offer OSHC:

The cost of OSHC differs depending on the type of cover required. The lowest cost of minimum cover is AUD$478 for 12 months of singles cover, $2,600 for 12 months of couples cover and $4,200 for 12 months of family cover (as of September 2021). You can have your OSHC organised for you by your educational institution or purchase it online through the OSHC provider’s website. You may choose to take out OSHC with your institution’s recommended provider or with another provider.

You should speak to the various OSHC providers before taking out cover to ensure that the level of cover you have chosen meets your needs. You may wish to compare policies from different OSHC providers to ensure you receive the highest benefits for the lowest cost. You can use Finder to take a look at the differences between plans from selected providers.

What services does OSHC offer you?

Basic OSHC covers visits to the doctor, some hospital treatment, limited pharmaceuticals, ambulance cover, some prosthetic devices and access to private hospitals and day surgeries. Dental, optical and physiotherapy treatments are not covered by basic OSHC but are available as ‘extras’ from some OSHC providers as part of more comprehensive OSHC cover (see below).

Does OSHC cover all medical and hospital expenses?

No. Part but not all of your expenses are covered. In most cases, OSHC will cover a good proportion of the costs. You should speak to the OSHC providers before taking out cover to ensure that you have the best cover, with the lowest cost and highest benefits.

What is extra OSHC?

Extra OSHC gives international students access to services that are not covered by OSHC medical and hospital cover — dental, physiotherapy and optical services, for example. OSHC providers will be able to provide full details of the services available under extra OSHC cover and the additional cost involved.

What if I need treatment while I’m in Australia?

The best option is to visit a doctor or go to the emergency department of a public hospital. Many educational institutions have a doctor on campus or nearby. OSHC providers often have direct billing relationships with medical clinics to ensure students can access treatment with no or minimal up-front expenses. The doctor will refer you to a specialist or hospital if further treatment is required. You can choose either a public or a private hospital, but you should contact your OSHC provider before going to a private hospital to check that you will be covered for treatment at that hospital. You should also contact your OSHC provider before going to a public hospital in a non-emergency situation or for an elective procedure to ensure that you are covered. In an emergency, you should go immediately to the emergency department of the nearest hospital, calling an ambulance on 000 if appropriate.

How do I pay for medical treatment?

In most cases, OSHC will cover a good proportion of your medical expenses. When you receive a bill for medical treatment, there are generally two choices. You can pay the bill and then get a refund from your OSHC provider, or have the bill sent directly to your OSHC provider for payment. For pharmaceutical claims, you need to pay for your item at the pharmacy first, then claim back from your OSHC provider. Hospital bills are normally sent directly to OSHC providers for payment, but arrangements for payment of treatment expenses will vary between health insurers. Payment arrangements differ between OSHC providers, so contact your provider for more information.

How long do I need to be covered?

You must obtain OSHC for the proposed duration of your student visa and renew your OSHC if you extend the length of your visa.

Can I transfer to a different OSHC provider?

You can transfer to a different OSHC provider at any time, but some providers charge a ‘refund processing fee’ if you transfer to a new policy before your old one ends.

Where can I go for further information or help?

If you require any further information about OSHC now or during your stay in Australia, you can visit privatehealth.gov.au, call 1300 737 299  or 13 14 50 for a translation service or contact one of the OSHC providers listed above.

The information in the above article was sourced from the Australian Government Department of Health website.

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