International Student Health Care – FAQs

By gho
Sep 09, 2022

While there’s nothing more exciting than heading to a new country like Australia to study, there are a few things you’ll need to organise. One of those things is your health insurance.

Let’s run through a few of the common questions surrounding healthcare for international students in Australia:


What is Medicare?

Medicare is the system provided by the Australian Government which gives citizens and most permanent Australian residents free or lower cost medical services.

Can international students access the Medicare system?

Generally speaking international students are not covered under Medicare and will instead need to take out Overseas Student Health Cover, otherwise known as OSHC.

However, there is one exception to this rule – if you’re from Sweden, Belgium, or Norway then you may be eligible for Medicare cover due to agreements the Australian Government has with those countries. To check this, you can visit the Australian Government services website.

What is Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) and why do international students need it?

The name on the (metaphorical) tin says it all. When you apply for a visa as an international student, you’ll be required to take out OSHC, which is an insurance designed to help you cover the cost of medical bills in the case you become unwell or injured during your stay.

There are six insurers that offer OSHC: Allianz Global Assistance, BUPA Australia, Medibank Private, nib, CBHS, and ahm Health Insurance. You can take out your insurance directly through their website.

How much does it cost and what services are offered?

As OSHC is required as part of your visa, each OSHC insurer offers options cover the cost of hospital and medical treatment, as well as benefits for ambulance services. The amount covered depends on your insurer and whether you us a hospital that has a partnership with your insurer. Services offered include:

  • Hospital bills
  • Doctor’s visits
  • Blood work and X-rays
  • Prescriptions
  • Emergency ambulances

OSHC policies also include cover for COVID-19 related illnesses, such as those under “Lung and chest”, “Kidney and bladder” and “Dialysis for chronic kidney failure” clinical categories.

Services such as dental, optical, and physiotherapy are not covered by OSHC as these aren’t a requirement for your visa. If you require cover for these extra services, you can get an “extras” policy on top of the standard OSHC policy, get coverage from any Australian private health insurer, or supplement OSHC with other insurance like international travel insurance.

As for how much it costs, the price varies a bit depending on the insurer. Here’s a cost comparison for a year’s worth of cover for a single 20-year-old coming to Australia to study for 1 year.

  • ahm – $480
  • Allianz Global Assistance – $529
  • Bupa – $516
  • CBHS – $454
  • Medibank – $517
  • nib – $480

What should I do if I become unwell in Australia?

If you do find yourself in the unfortunate situation where you require medical attention there are two different options available:

  • General Practitioner: For non-emergency healthcare the best option is usually visiting a General Practitioner (GP). They are doctors who work in both medical centres and private practices who can treat you for things like the common cold or a minor injury.
  • Hospital emergency department: However, if you do find yourself in an emergency situation then you should instead visit your nearest hospital emergency department. In some cases you may feel well enough to make your own way there, but if you do require an ambulance the number in Australia to call is 000.

Whether you visit a GP or hospital, it’s important to remember to take your OSHC card with you – or for Swedish, Belgian or Norwegian students your Medicare card.

Who should I see if I have problems with my teeth?

While OSHC is designed to reduce the cost of any potential medical bills while you’re in Australia, the important thing to keep in mind it doesn’t usually cover dental work. To be covered there are a few options available: travel insurance, extras covered through your OSHC insurer, or an insurance policy through a private health insurer in Australia.

Can I switch OSHC providers?

You absolutely can and you’re allowed to do it at any time. However, you may have to pay a refund processing fee to do it.

If you switch funds midway through your current policy, you’re entitled to a refund if you paid your premium in advance. What you’ll have to do is arrange your new OSHC policy with a new insurer first before you can organise a refund from your old OSHC provider as you’re not allowed a gap between your previous policy and your new policy.

We hope we’ve helped answer some of those questions you’ve had about your healthcare, as an international student in Australia!