If the golden sands and famous outback of Australia are calling you to the land downunder, then there is nothing stopping you from visiting our shores – that is of course if you have got your Visa and health insurance requirements organised.
Depending on the reason for your visit, you may be required to take out private health cover as part of the conditions of your Visa.
Even if it isn't a requirement for your stay under your Visa conditions, it is well worth considering taking cover as you could be responsible for paying for the full cost of treatment if you were in need of a doctor or hospital treatment – and this can rack up quite a hefty bill!
The Private Health Insurance Ombudsman (PHIO) states that some overseas visitors may be eligible to receive "immediate necessary treatment" in Australia's public system if your home country has a reciprocal health care agreement – though it's still recommended that you consider taking out Australian health insurance.
What is a reciprocal health care agreement?
This agreement covers the cost of "essential medical treatment" for overseas visitors travelling in Australia, which therefore sees some limited health services and subsidised medicines provided by Medicare.
Australia has agreements with the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Malta, Italy, Belgium, Norway and Slovenia.
The Australian Department of Human Services states that students from Finland, Malta, Norway and the Republic of Ireland are not covered by agreements with those countries, and that reciprocal health care agreements are not designed to replace private travel health insurance for overseas travel.
Health insurance for overseas students studying in Australia
Overseas students on a temporary student Visa are not generally covered by Australia's public Medicare system for medical expenses. It is a condition of the Visa to take out appropriate health cover known as Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).
OSHC helps to cover the cost of hospital and medical treatment they may need while staying in Australia, students from Sweden and Norway may have special arrangements.
The cover does not pay for general treatment such as optical, physiotherapy or dental, but if you require cover for these treatments then you may take Extra OSHC from a provider or choose general treatment cover with any Australian private health insurer.
The PHIO advises to take care to "maintain your cover at all times" and not to fall behind in payments, as you may not be able to claim for services you received while you were in arrears.
Make sure to inform your insurer if your Visa status or Medicare eligibility changes at any time, to find out if the level of cover you have is still suitable.
If your student Visa expires you are no longer eligible to have OSCH, but you can swap to a residents cover or to an Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) plan.
What is Overseas Visitors Health Cover?
OVHC policies will differ in price, benefits and eligibility, though most should cover you for a "portion" of doctor's fees and "medically-required" hospital admissions.
If you require extra cover for the services of optometrists, dentists and physiotherapists, then you can take out General Treatment cover, like that of the OSHC, with this allowing for some benefits to be paid toward these health care providers.
Comparing and choosing private health cover
It may be wise for you to do a private health insurance comparison of a few policies first before jumping on board with a health fund.
Your HICA health consultant can help you to compare health insurance policies so that you can get set up with the plan that satisfies your Visa requirements and is most appropriate for your medical needs.