Australia is one of the countries in the world that requires you to have health insurance, even if you are an international student who is only residing in the country temporarily. This health care program is referred to as the Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) and is incredibly important for you to understand and purchase before you go to Australia.
Why Do I Need OSHC?
This insurance helps to meet the costs of medical care, hospital care, pharmaceuticals, and ambulance services while in Australia. If you are someone that has a student visa or if you are applying for a student visa, you must get an OSHC. There are only three exceptions for this rule:
- If you are a Norwegian student covered by the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme.
- If you are a Swedish student covered by the National Board of Student Aid or by Kammarkollegiet.
- If you are a Belgian student covered under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia.
If you fall into any of these three categories, you will be covered by the insurance from your home country and you do not have to purchase OSHC for yourself or any of the family members that are coming to the country with you.
How do I purchase OSHC and What Does it Cover?
You can arrange to pay for your OSHC plan through your university, or you can purchase them yourself online. The Department of Health and Aging website can help you make decisions as to who to choose for your OSHC provider.
These benefits can vary depending on your insurer. You may end up with basic coverage or, for a bit of a higher cost, you may get a bit more in terms of comprehensive cover and extra services. Here are some of the things that must be included in your safety net:
- Benefits listed in the Medicate Benefits Schedule (MBS) fee for out of hospital services. This applies if you have a visit to a general practitioner or doctor’s practice.
- 100% of the MBS fee for any in-patient services, like surgery or extended care for an illness.
- All public and some private hospital shared ward accommodation (only the private hospitals associated with your OSHC provider insurance).
- Out-patient or day surgery accommodation and procedures.
- Prosthetic devices (at least a certain %)
- $50 per medication for up to $300 per year for an individual. You can get plans for more than this, and you should definitely consider them if you have prescriptions that you take regularly for one reason or another.
There are other services that may be covered by your OSHC as well. General dental treatment, general optical treatment, and physical therapy may be included in certain plans, or some companies may offer what is called “general treatment cover” at an additional cost. Contact your OSHC provider for more information on the costs associated with adding these treatments to your plan.
There are also some treatments that may be covered, but require a waiting period. These usually include pre-existing conditions, either psychiatric (which may have a 2 month waiting period), physical, or pregnancy related. The waiting period will begin on the first day listed on your student visa.
Unless stated by the program or university that you are attending, you are only eligible for OSHC benefits for a total of five years. If the course of study that you are in (for example, you are studying both your Master’s and your doctorate at a particular Australian university) requires you to stay in the country for more than five years, then the university must assist you in the process of obtaining an extension on your OSHC plan.
If you need more information about OSHC and obtaining health insurance for you and your family during your time studying in Australia, check out the Department of Immigration and Citizenship webpage or the Department of Health and Aging’s website about OSHC. The international student affairs office at your university should also have the information that you need about OSHC, if you wish to contact them instead.