Overseas Visitors Health Cover

When you’re planning a trip to Australia, your check-list might consist of sunscreen, flip-flops, and summer clothes, but have you considered an Overseas Visitor Health Cover? Having a medical plan may not be at the top of your list, but like any overseas travel, it is essential to have some form of private health insurance in case of medical emergencies or illnesses.

What is Overseas Visitor Health Cover?

Overseas Visitor Health Cover (OVHC) is a form of health insurance that insures visitors against potential medical or hospital out-of-pocket expenses.

Private health insurance is a prerequisite for certain visas when visiting Australia, however, it is advisable that you acquire an Overseas Visitor Health Cover even if your visa does not call for it. The last thing you want to be paying on your holiday is heavy medical bills. A hospital stay could cost you around $1000AUD a night.

Depending on your level of cover, OVHC can cover you for a wide range of services, including:

  • Hospital treatment
  • Theatre fees
  • Accommodation
  • Doctors and specialist fees
  • Day surgery
  • Prescriptions
  • Non-hospital treatment such as dental and physio
  • Emergency ambulance

In Australia, there are two components to private health insurance. These are:

Hospital Cover

This type of cover takes care of your accommodation as a private patient in either a private or public hospital, as well as in-hospital treatment for services dependent on your level of cover. Hospital cover is classified under 4 main categories, from basic all the way up to top comprehensive cover:

  1. Basic Hospital
  2. Bronze Hospital
  3. Silver Hospital
  4. Gold Hospital

If you need health insurance solely for your visa requirement, a Basic Hospital level of cover may suffice.

Extras Cover

Extras cover takes care of the everyday medical services that are not generally covered by the public health system, Medicare. These types of treatments include:

  • General and major dental work
  • Optical services
  • Physiotherapy
  • Medical devices
  • Remedial massage

 Visas that require you to have private health insurance only call for hospital cover. However, if you would like to be covered for any of the above services, you can purchase an extras cover in combination with your hospital cover, or as a standalone policy.

What is the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement?

Visitors from the following countries may be eligible for medical treatment under Medicare via the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement

Visitors covered under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement are entitled to immediate necessary medical treatment through Medicare but do not otherwise qualify for benefits. They should, therefore, still consider taking out an Overseas Visitor Health Cover for peace of mind and convenience.

Those holding or who have applied for an Australian permanent residency are generally entitled to immediate temporary or full Medicare benefits. These parties can also purchase a private health insurance policy to avoid long waiting lists and be seen by a preferred medical practitioner.  

Overseas Students and Visitors

Students are required to take out an Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) as part of their visa condition.  Those applying for a working visa, such as subclasses 482 (Temporary Skill Shortage) or 485 (Temporary Graduate), will need to take out an Overseas Visitor Health Cover that matches certain conditions. Refer to the information below.

Student Visa

All student visitors are required to hold an Overseas Student Health Cover

Working Visa

Applicants with a working visa, including subclass 485 and 482, can purchase an Overseas Visitors Health Cover. Ensure that your policy is in line with your visa requirements.

Visa with Condition 8501

These visa holders can purchase an Overseas Visitors Health Cover to meet your medical requirements. Ensure that your policy is in line with your visa requirements

Any Other Type of Visa
  1. Those without Medicare benefits or reciprocal Medicare benefits can purchase an Overseas Visitors Health Cover from an Australian or international insurer
  2. Those who hold an interim or full Medicare can purchase an Australian residents’ private health insurance.

Overseas Visitors Health Cover FAQ

Medicare does not cover your stay in a private hospital and generally only treat you when it is deemed medically necessary. Therefore, for your peace of mind, the Australian Government recommends that visitors still take out a health insurance policy

What you are and aren’t covered for all depends on your level of cover. A top hospital cover will cover you for all treatments and services covered under Medicare and it is advisable if you intend on staying in Australia for an extended period. The full list of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) can be accessed here. Keep in mind that health funds generally impose a 12-month waiting period on pre-existing conditions, and some exclude pre-existing conditions completely from their OVHC policies. It is always advisable to check the restrictions and exclusions of the policy you opt for. If you are only in the country for a short period of time, you might consider purchasing a basic or mid-level policy.

Australia has agreements with 11 countries that subsidises or covers the cost of their medical treatments through the public health system. Australians are also eligible for the same treatment when they visit these countries.

No, you don’t, but health insurance is a logical step if you don’t want to be caught out with a hefty medical bill should you find yourself hospitalised.

You can pay your OVHC in advance either through credit card payment or direct debit or you can apply for a refund from your health fund after you’ve paid for your medical treatment.

Your policy kicks in as soon as your visa is granted or as soon as you arrive in Australia, but some treatments require waiting periods. Your policy will remain valid as long as your payments are up to date. Once your visa expires, your OVHC will end.

You will need to contact your health fund and inform them of the date that you would like to cancel your policy. If you have paid your premiums and did not visit Australia, or did not have your visa extension approved, you can apply for a refund. Keep in mind that refunds are typically calculated on a monthly pro-rata basis.

Health funds generally send you a confirmation email immediately after you’ve purchased your cover.

Medicare does not cover ambulance service, and without a private health insurance policy, you can expect to pay somewhere around $900 for emergency transportation.

If you are not covered under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement, most hospitals require upfront payment or at least a deposit. The following information may also be required:

  • Your visa status and passport
  • Health insurance or travel policy details
  • Credit card details
  • Your contact information whilst in Australia
  • Your overseas residential address and phone number

Most health funds allow you to make your claim online, through an app, by post, or in-person by visiting a branch. 

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Renee handled my call with empathy, product knowledge, and skill. She listened to my needs and prior experiences and came up with a result that was very satisfactory to me.
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My consultant Mark was absolutely brilliant, he did all the research, asked and met my personal circumstances and was great to chat with. I will definitely be contacting again when or if I ever need any more help in this area. Thank you again!
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