Overseas Student Health Cover - Frequently Asked Questions

This page contains frequently asked questions on Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).

Page last updated: 07 February 2013

What is OSHC?

OSHC is insurance to assist international students meet the costs of medical and hospital care that they may need while in Australia. OSHC will also pay limited benefits for pharmaceuticals and ambulance services.

Who has to take out OSHC?

People who must take out OSHC are overseas students undertaking formal studies in Australia and their dependents (for example, spouses and children under 18 years old).

For the purposes of OSHC, ‘overseas student’ means:
  • a person who is the holder of a student visa; or
  • a person who:
- is an applicant for a student visa; and
- is the holder of a bridging visa; and
- was immediately before being granted the bridging visa, the holder of a student visa.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship requires overseas students to maintain OSHC for the duration of time they are in Australia. For further information please visit the Department of Immigration & Citizenship website.

Who doesn't have to take out OSHC?

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

Belgian students

As a result of an agreement between the Australian and Belgian governments, all Belgian students are considered to have met 'adequate insurance' requirements on the basis of the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement between Australia and Belgium. If you are a Belgian student, you will not have to take out OSHC to meet your visa requirements. For further information about your visa requirements please see the Department of Immigration & Citizenship website.

Norwegian students

As a result of an agreement between the Australian and Norwegian governments, all Norwegian students are provided with adequate health insurance by the Norwegian government and the compulsory OSHC visa requirement is waived for Norwegian students. For further information about your visa requirements please see the Department of Immigration & Citizenship website.

Swedish students (Restrictions may apply)

Swedish students may be waived the compulsory OSHC visa requirement. Swedish students whose insurance is provided by CSN International (the Swedish National Board of Student Aid) or Kammarkollegiet (the Swedish Legal, Financial and Administration Agency) will not need to take out OSHC. If you are a Swedish student who is not covered by CSN or Kammarkollegiet, you will need to take out OSHC. For further information about your visa requirements please see the Department of Immigration & Citizenship website.

Belgian, Norwegian and Swedish students who are not required to purchase OSHC, will be covered for treatment that is medically necessary under their country’s Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) with Australia.

Medically necessary treatment means any ill-health or injury which occurs while you are in Australia and requires treatment before you return home.
You would be entitled to:
  • free treatment as a public in-patient or out-patient at a public hospital; and
  • access to subsidised medicine under the Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme (PBS)
However you would NOT be entitled to:
  • medicine not subsidised under the PBS;
  • treatment arranged before your visit to Australia;
  • accommodation and medical treatment in a private hospital; and
  • accommodation and medical treatment as a private patient in a public hospital.
Belgian, Norwegian and Swedish students who are not required to purchase OSHC can choose whether to have Medicare cover only or a combination of Medicare and OSHC or some other type of private health insurance.

The benefits you receive from Medicare are based on a Schedule of fees set by the Australian Government. Doctors may choose to charge more than the Schedule fee. Please see the Medicare Australia website for further information about what is covered by Medicare.

Private health insurance can provide hospital cover as well as additional cover for some services not covered by Medicare, such as ancillary services (for example, dental, optical, physiotherapy), allied health services and ambulance cover.

Which insurers offer OSHC?

How do I purchase OSHC?

You can arrange to pay for your OSHC through your educational institution or you can purchase OSHC online by visiting the OSHC insurers’ websites. You retain the right to choose your own OSHC provider even when your educational institution makes a specific recommendation because they have negotiated a preferred provider arrangement with a particular insurer.
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What does OSHC cover?

OSHC provides a safety net for international students. It includes cover for visits to the doctor, some hospital treatment, ambulance cover and limited pharmaceuticals (medicines).

OSHC insurers can provide a range of different OSHC products. These may range from a basic product which covers only the compulsory minimum services to comprehensive products which cover, in addition to the compulsory minimum services, extra services as specified under the particular policy.

At a minimum, each OSHC product must include cover for:
  • the benefit amount listed in the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) fee for out-of-hospital medical services (for example, a general practitioner)
  • 100 per cent of the MBS fee for in-patient medical services (for example, surgery)
  • public hospital shared ward accommodation
  • private hospital shared ward accommodation (only for hospitals that have contractual arrangements with the overseas student’s health insurer)
  • day surgery accommodation
  • some prosthetic devices
  • pharmaceutical benefits up to $50 per pharmaceutical item to a maximum of $300 a year for a single membership ($600 for a family membership). Overseas students may face significant out of pocket costs if they do not have appropriate coverage for treatment with pharmaceuticals, particularly oncology (cancer) treatment.
  • ambulance services.
You may choose to compare policies from different OSHC insurers before selecting your insurer.

Before then purchasing the policy, make sure you check with the OSHC insurer about the level of cover you have chosen to ensure that it meets your needs.

OSHC may cover, depending on the type of OSHC product purchased, general treatment (ancillary or extras cover, for example dental, optical or physiotherapy).
If you require general treatment cover, you should contact the OSHC insurer for further information.

Waiting periods

Under OSHC policies, OSHC insurers may impose waiting periods for the following:
  • treatment during the first 12 months of membership for pre-existing medical conditions, disabilities and pregnancy-related services; and
  • treatment during the first 2 months of membership for pre-existing psychiatric conditions.
Waiting periods start from the day of arrival in Australia on a student visa.

What insurers can not cover under the OSHC Deed?

  • treatment arranged before coming to Australia
  • treatment needed while travelling to or from Australia
  • transportation of an overseas student or dependent into or out of Australia for any reason
  • treatment covered by provisions for compensation and damages.

How much does OSHC cost?

The cost of OSHC varies depending on the type of cover required. The average cost of minimum cover is $437 for 12 months singles cover, $1222 for 12 months couples cover, $1744 for 12 months single-parents cover and $2022 family cover (Australian dollars).

What if I need treatment?

  • You can make an appointment to see a General Practitioner (GP).
  • In the case you need emergency hospital treatment you should go immediately to the emergency department of the nearest hospital. If appropriate, you can call “000” and ask for an ambulance to take you to hospital.
  • If you need to go to a public hospital in a non-emergency situation or for an elective procedure, then you should call your OSHC insurer and check that your policy will cover you for that admission. You should also ask your OSHC insurer where their nearest agreement hospital is located. You should call that hospital to confirm that you will be accepted as a patient with OSHC.
  • It is also important that you contact your OSHC insurer before you are admitted to a private hospital because not all services will be covered if you go to a private hospital and you may have to pay extra if the private hospital does not have contractual arrangements with your OSHC insurer.

How do I pay for treatment?

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 insurer, or the unpaid account can be given directly to your OSHC insurer. For pharmaceutical claims, you need to pay the chemist first and then claim back from your health insurer.

Hospital bills are normally sent directly to the OSHC insurer for payment. However, arrangements for payment of treatment expenses will vary between OSHC insurers. You should contact your OSHC insurer for further information.
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How long do I have to have cover?

It is a visa requirement that from 1 July 2010, students must obtain OSHC for the proposed duration of their student visa. If you extend the length of your student visa, you must renew your OSHC policy. OSHC providers are obliged to provide cover for up to 5 years in respect of the proposed duration of the visa, however they may also choose to provide longer cover.

Further information regarding visa requirements is available at the Department of Immigration & Citizenship website.

How do I renew my OSHC?

Renewing your OSHC is easy. You can renew your cover by either contacting the provider of your OSHC or the institution at which you study.

Can I transfer to a different OSHC provider?

Your educational institution may have an agreement with a specific OSHC insurer. You can choose to take out OSHC with your institutions provider, or with the Australian OSHC provider of your choice.

You may transfer to another OSHC insurer at any time, but you may incur a ‘refund processing fee’ if you transfer midway through a period of cover. If you have paid in advance, you can get a refund. To obtain a refund you must provide proof to your previous OSHC insurer that you have a valid OSHC policy with a new OSHC insurer that overlaps the period covered by your previous OSHC insurer.

When transferring between health insurers, any periods of membership served with one OSHC insurer will count toward waiting periods with your new OSHC insurer, providing there is no lapse in membership.

Can I take out insurance with an overseas insurer?

No. Only Australian registered private health insurers can offer OSHC. This is because the Australian Government wants to be able to monitor and regulate insurers covering people living temporarily in Australia. The Government is not able to protect the interests of people insured by overseas insurance companies in the same way.

What if I have a problem with my OSHC insurer, my policy or my bill for treatment?

If you have a problem with your OSHC insurer, you can contact the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman (PHIO). The PHIO provides a free independent service to help consumers with health insurance problems and enquiries.

The PHIO can deal with complaints from health fund members, health funds, private hospitals or medical practitioners. Complaints must be about a health insurance arrangement.

Phone: 1800 640 695 (within Australia)

Email: Private Health Insurance Ombudsman

Visit the PHIO website.
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