Once you’ve made the exciting decision to study in Australia, you’ll have a long list of things to do before you can set off on your adventure.
Sorting out your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) is one of the most important steps you’ll need to take before boarding the plane, as it is a requirement for your student visa in Australia.
If you’re unsure about where to start or need more information on what exactly OSHC is, read on for our ultimate guide to everything you should know about OSHC.
What is OSHC?
OSHC is a compulsory health insurance scheme for international students in Australia that helps to cover any medical expenses that may occur during your stay. OSHC acts as a safety net in case you get sick or need to go to a hospital for treatment.
While Australia has an excellent healthcare system, the cost of medical treatment can be very high if you don’t have health insurance. Without insurance, just one trip to a hospital can cost you over $1500. OSHC subsidises these charges so that you can get help when you need it without worrying about huge medical bills.
What does OSHC cover?
Depending on which plan you choose, most basic OSHC policies will either fully or partially cover:
- Visits to your General Practitioner (GP) and any medical treatment
- Specialist medical services such as pathology and radiology
- Public and private hospital stays and any medical treatment
- Certain medications prescribed by your GP
- Emergency ambulance trips to the hospital
What doesn’t OSHC cover?
It’s important to know there are some medical services that OSHC won’t cover. Medical specialists such as physiotherapists, optometrists, osteopaths, chiropractors, naturopaths and, in most cases, dentists, will require you to pay the full fee out of your own pocket.
If you use medication that wasn’t prescribed by a GP or isn’t included under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (the Australian Government program enabling Australians to purchase prescription medication for reduced costs), you’ll need to pay the full amount yourself.
You’ll also need to pay for any other medical services that aren’t covered by your OSHC or when the expense of your treatment exceeds the amount for which you’re covered. Of course, every OSHC policy is different, so always check your specific policy for details on what is and isn’t included.
Who needs OSHC?
OSHC is a student visa requirement to enter Australia. Your OSHC policy will need to be purchased before you leave your home country and cover you for the duration of your time here. If you happen to extend your student visa so you can stay longer in Australia, you’ll need to make sure you renew your OSHC policy, too.
The only exception to purchasing OSHC is if you’re a student coming from Belgium, Sweden or Norway, as Australia has reciprocal arrangements with these countries that mean you won’t be required to pay for health insurance while here.
What if I’m bringing my family with me?
Just like OSHC is a requirement of your student visa, your spouse and children (if they’re under 18) will need to sort out OSHC before arriving in Australia. The good news is you can easily add them as dependents on your own OSHC policy, which makes the process a lot more streamlined when applying for OSHC and using it in Australia. Contact your insurance provider for more information.
Where do I organise my OSHC?
OSHC can be organised through your education provider, or you can choose your own health insurance company. Australia has five options:
- Bupa Australia
- Allianz Global Assistance
- Medibank Private
- Australian Health Management
- nib OSHC
- CBHS International Health
An easy way to arrange your cover is to use an OSHC comparison service like Canstar or OSHC Australia. This way, you compare all government-authorised providers together and see how their policies differ in terms of features and price to ensure you make the right decision.
If you choose to go through your education provider, your OSHC will be arranged for you and you’ll be covered from your first day in Australia until you leave.
Can I change my OSHC provider?
Yes! How to switch OSHC providers will depend on whether you want to interrupt your current policy, or renew with a different fund after your current policy expires.
How do I use OSHC in Australia?
When seeing a GP, make sure you go to a clinic that offers direct billing so you can make a claim with your insurance provider. Often, you’ll just need to show your OSHC membership card with photo ID and the bill will be sent to your provider. Other times, you may need to pay the bill and make a claim afterwards. To do this, log on to your provider’s website and follow the steps to submit a claim.
For hospital treatment, you’ll need to contact your health insurance company as soon as you can with details of your stay. They will then help to arrange the necessary payment to the hospital.
For mental health treatments, you may be eligible for a Mental Health Care Plan from a GP. This initially entitles you to six sessions with a psychologist that are partly or fully covered by your OSHC. You can renew your Mental Health Plan for another six sessions, as long as it doesn’t exceed ten sessions over twelve months. You may be required to pay a gap fee (the amount between your covered cost and the total amount) but this will be significantly less than the total expense. This amount can vary, so make sure to check with the psychologist or psychiatrist’s office before starting treatment.
If you have any questions about where to find covered healthcare providers or how to claim, you can contact your OSHC provider directly. In a medical emergency, always seek treatment first. The hospital staff can help you figure out your insurance afterwards.