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OSHC vs. OVHC: What is the Difference in Health Insurance Covers and Which One Do I Need?

Do you have the right health cover for your visa?

For many visa types (including student visas), holding health cover is a condition of your visa. So, whether you are applying for your first visa or looking to transition from one visa type to another, familiarity with the different health cover requirements is essential.

For example, Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) serves to provide international students with a basic level of health insurance cover whilst they study in Australia. On the other hand, Overseas Visitor Health Cover (OVHC) is a type of insurance specifically designed for those on a Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485), international visitors and workers. Both types of cover can be similar in terms of healthcare benefits, but it is imperative that you purchase the correct cover for your visa type. If your circumstances change, you may also need to adjust your health insurance cover to remain compliant with your visa. You can speak to your health insurer directly for information on this process, for example, Bupa offers a breakdown of your options based on your future plans

Let’s take you through the key differences in eligibility for OSHC and OVHC and how to apply for them.

What is OSHC?

Overseas Student Health Cover is a mandatory requirement of a Student visa (subclass 500). Some exceptions may apply if you are a student from Sweden, Norway or Belgium. If this applies to you, you may have special arrangements under your own national schemes. Check the Department of Home Affairs website to see if these arrangements apply to you and if you are exempt from the requirement to purchase OSHC.

OSHC includes private and public hospital admissions, emergency ambulance trips, doctor’s and specialist appointments, medical test expenses and limited prescription medication costs.

Insurers who provide OSHC offer a range of products that differ in the breadth of cover. Hospital admissions, doctor appointments and emergency ambulance trips form part of the compulsory minimum cover, but some providers offer packages with extra services such as dental care and physiotherapy. These may incur an additional cost, so we recommend you do thorough research to find a provider that covers what is important for you and your health.

You need to ensure that you have a valid and up-to-date OSHC for the entire time you hold a student visa. OSHC covers you only for the length of your visa. 

As an international student, it can be quite overwhelming to move to a new country, and understanding a new healthcare system can be confusing. Luckily, your providers are here to help. For example, Bupa offers a 24-hour Student Advice Line with support available in 180 languages. You can benefit from not only medical assistance but help with your home and property, tax, and legal queries you may have.

Read more: Your Guide to Understanding the Australian Health System

What is OVHC?

Overseas Visitor Health Cover is a different form of healthcare insurance that is designated for those on working and visitor visas. For many working and visitor visa types – such as subclass 417, 462 and 600 – it is not mandatory to have health cover. For most visitor visas, you will be required to meet Australia’s health requirements, but this does not always include an insurance requirement. However, it is highly recommended that you purchase insurance for the duration of your stay for both your safety and peace of mind.

For other visas, health cover is mandatory. For example, many international students transition from a student visa to a Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485), which requires OVHC rather than OSHC.  This is to fulfil visa condition 8501. Your OSHC will not cover you if you are on a subclass 485 visa. As a result, it’s crucial to familiarise yourself with the requirements for different visas during your transition process.

When you are making the switch from OSHC to OVHC, there are a number of factors to consider. Think about what level of cover you would like on your OVHC; for example, you may want a basic plan with hospital and emergency ambulance costs covered, or you may be interested in one with extras like dental. The more cover you have, the fewer out-of-pocket expenses you will need to pay when you visit a healthcare provider. These can be expensive, particularly dental procedures! 

You should also consider whether you want to change providers as this is an opportunity to do so. If you choose to remain with your current provider, speak to them directly to ensure that you are receiving continuous cover whilst applying for your visa. 

Similarities between OSHC and OVHC

OVHC covers a similar range of healthcare expenses, including hospital stays, ambulance, doctor appointments and some prescription medication. Similar to OSHC, OVHC can include inpatient hospital psychiatric services.

Note that neither the OSHC nor the OVHC program meets the eligibility criteria for a private health insurance rebate for tax purposes in Australia. So, when filling out your Australian tax return, you should not complete the private health insurance policy details section. 

Differences between OSHC and OVHC

A key difference between OSHC and OVHC is that OVHC is typically paid on a month-by-month basis, amounting somewhere between $50-$200 per month depending on your provider and plan. However, you also often have the option to pay fortnightly. This is because OVHC covers a range of visas, including ones for temporary stays of 3-12 months. You must ensure that you are not behind with your monthly payments to continue fulfilling your visa requirements. In comparison, OSHC is prepaid for the duration of your student visa. 

If you have any further questions, consult your insurance provider to ensure that you can transition your cover seamlessly.