What is OSHC overseas student health insurance? What does it cover? What does it cost?
What is OSHC?
Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) is a type of overseas visitors’ health insurance that international students need to study in Australia. OSHC pays part or all of the cost if you have to visit the doctor, go to hospital, need an ambulance, or need to buy pharmacy medicines.
International students must have OSHC insurance as a condition of their student visa. This is because you cannot access our public health system, so you need private health insurance to pay for your healthcare. All the OSHC providers we research and rate meet this condition.
You must have OSHC cover for the whole time you are here on a student visa or bridging visa, and you must prepay for OSHC cover for the length of your visa before you come to Australia. If you extend your visa, you must renew your OSHC policy.
If your family is coming overseas with you, your spouse (husband or wife) and children must also be covered by OSHC cover.
If you decide that your chosen OSHC cover is too expensive or doesn’t cover what you want, you can switch to a different insurance provider, as long as your cover with them matches the length of your visa.
What student visas require OSHC?
The following student visas require that you have OSHC for the full time of your studies before you come to Australia:
|500 Student visa|
|590 Student Guardian visa|
|407 Training visa|
|485 Temporary Graduate visa|
International students who come from a country that has a reciprocal healthcare arrangement with Australia do not have to buy OSHC for their student visa (Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, or the UK). These countries have a healthcare agreement with Australia, so they will be covered by the Australian public health system (Medicare).
Compare OSHC student health insurance policies
If you are looking for OSHC, find the insurance that provides outstanding value for international students. Compare features and prices for OSHC student health insurance in Australia on the Canstar website. See our comparison table below for a snapshot of the current low premium policies available to the market for a 4 year student visa:
What does OSHC insurance cover?
OSHC overseas student health insurance will help cover the costs of medical treatment if you need it while you are in Australia, such as seeing a doctor, going to hospital, pharmacy medicines, and riding in an ambulance to hospital.
The OSHC health policies that Canstar researches and rates are almost identical, because they must cover many medical services. But each policy has a different cost (the “premium”). And some providers offer different amounts of cover for certain things, and some providers also offer extra benefits such as “repatriation” cover to help you go home if you have a medical emergency.
- Out-of-hospital medical services (e.g. seeing a doctor or GP)
- 100% of MBS fee for in-patient medical services in a hospital (e.g. surgery, treatment by a doctor)
- Public hospital shared ward accommodation (staying in a public hospital in a shared ward)
- Private hospital shared ward accommodation (for hospitals that have an arrangement with your OSHC insurance provider)
- Day surgery accommodation for day surgery in a hospital or clinic
- Some prosthetic devices (e.g. joint replacement surgery)
- Pharmacy medicines, up to $50 per medicine, with a maximum limit of $300/year for a single person (or $600/year for a family). This means you still pay part of the cost of most prescription medicines.
- Ambulance services
What does OSHC cost?
Students coming to study in Australia must buy an OSHC policy for the entire length of their student visa, which can range from 1 year to 5 years. You might think that a 3-year policy, for example, would cost three times as much as a 1-year policy, but it probably costs more. The premium costs per year for a policy can increase for longer student visas.
This table shows the average cost of an OSHC policy for different lengths of student visa, based on the policies researched by Canstar:
|Student Visa Length||Average OSHC Premium per year|
Source: Canstar 2017 OSHC Star Ratings. Premiums current as at 13 February 2017.
The reason that a 5-year policy, on average, costs more than five times the price of a 1-year policy is not clear. It may be that the average person studying in Australia on a visa is more likely to require hospitalisation if they stay in Australia for a longer period of time.
Your OSHC policy may not pay for the whole bill from your doctor or the hospital. The portion of the bill that you pay is called the “gap” or “out of pocket expenses”. But you do not have to pay any “excess” for the cost of being admitted to hospital – so there is no amount that you automatically have to pay when you make a claim with your OSHC insurance.
What are the waiting periods for OSHC?
There are only a few waiting periods you need to know about for OSHC insurance. OSHC insurance providers may make you wait to claim benefits back if you access healthcare for:
- Treatment for pre-existing medical conditions, disabilities and pregnancy-related services – waiting period 12 months
- Treatment for pre-existing psychiatric conditions – waiting period 2 months
These waiting periods start from the day you arrive in Australia on your student visa. If you switch insurance providers part of the way through your visa, you will not have to serve the waiting periods again.
Who offers OSHC?
The insurance providers we researched who offer OSHC in 2017 are:
- Bupa Australia
- Medibank Private
- Allianz Global Assistance (Lysaght Peoplecare)
How to buy OSHC
You can buy your OSHC insurance through your educational institution or you can buy it online on an insurance company’s website. You can choose your own OSHC company, even if your university or school has a “preferred provider” and recommends that you choose their provider.
Compare OSHC insurance companies on our website first:
Can I transfer or change OSHC companies?
You can transfer to a different OSHC insurance company anytime. If you paid in advance for your OHSC cover, you can get a refund, but you may have to pay a ‘refund processing fee’.
You must buy a new OSHC insurance policy before you can get a refund from your previous OSHC provider, because you must have insurance for the whole time you are in Australia on a student visa. You will not have to serve the waiting periods again after you change OSHC providers.
Find out more about OSHC with our latest star ratings report: