Health and safety

The Definitive Guide To Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)

If you are looking to come to Australia from overseas on an Australian student visa, Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) is something you’ll need to consider.

OSHC in it’s most simple form is a health insurance policy and as a student on an Australian Student Visa, obtaining adequate Overseas Student Health Cover is a condition of your visa which requires you to maintain adequate health insurance for the duration of your stay in Australia.

This means you need to purchase OSHC and keep your policy up to date whilst you are in Australia and holding a student visa.

What happens if I’m a student without OSHC?

As holding OSHC is a visa requirement, take care to maintain your health insurance cover at all times. If you remain in Australia on a student visa without the appropriate level of cover. You could risk facing penalties from he department of immigration, up to and including the calcenellation of your Student Visa.

If you do fall behind in payments or renewing your cover, you will be able to continue your cover but you may not be able to claim for services you received while you were in arrears.

If your visa status or Medicare eligibility changes at any time, make sure you inform your insurer as soon as possible to find out whether your level of cover is still suitable.

When your student visa expires, then you are no longer eligible to hold OSHC. Should you choose to stay in Australia and maintain your medical insurance coverage, you will then need to swap over to a residents’ cover or to an Overseas Visitors Health Cover plan

Are international students covered by Medicare?

If you are in Australia on a student visa from the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Slovenia, Italy or New Zealand, you can also apply for Medicare under your country’s Reciprocal Health Care Agreements.

It is important to note however, any Medicare coverage you are entitled to under a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement will be in addition to OSHC.

Having reciprocal access to Medicare does not exempt you from needing to take out OSHC so it’s important that you still have an appropriate level of Overseas health cover when staying in Australia on your student visa.

(Students from Norway, Finland, Malta and the Republic of Ireland are not covered by the agreements with those countries.)

Are there any exceptions to obtaining OSHC?

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 health schemes – if this is the case, we recommend that you check to find out if special arrangements apply to you and if you are exempt from the requirement to purchase OSHC.

The department of home affairs is a recommended starting point for students that may meet this criteria.

What does OSHC student cover?

The Definitive Guide To Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) is a key requirement of an Australian Student Visa application.

At a high level, OSHC policies assist to cover the cost of hospital and medical treatment with benefits also being paid for ambulance services if required.

OSHC does not generally pay for general treatment (ancillary, or extras cover) such as dental, optical or physiotherapy.

If you require cover for these treatments, we recommend that you consider taking out ‘Extras OSHC’ provided by an OSHC provider or general treatment cover with any Australian private health insurer.

You can also choose to supplement OSHC with other insurance such as international travel insurance.

Does OSHC cover travel insurance?

In general terms, OSHC covers many of the health elements that you’ll find in a traditional travel insurance policy (those referenced under ‘What does OSHC student cover’ above). It’s important to note however that beyond those items previously posted, OSHC does not make a suitable alternative to travel insurance. Remember that travel insurance generally covers a much broader range of non-health-related items such as the cancellation of travel tickets, lost luggage or issued caused by bad weather events. You will not get this coverage through an OSHC Policy.

Does OSHC cover COVID-19 related illnesses?

OSHC includes cover for Coronavirus (COVID-19) related illnesses, principally “Lung and chest”, “Kidney and bladder” and “Dialysis for chronic kidney failure” clinical categories.

International students who are stranded in Australia, due to mandated travel restrictions put in place by the Australian Government in response to the global pandemic, are recommended to contact their private health insurer for further assistance to ensure continuity of cover during this time.

International students who are offshore due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) while the holder of a student visa are recommended to contact their private health insurer about available options during this time.

For more information see the Department of Health website.

Can I travel To Australia before OSHC starts?

Your Australia Student Visa Condition Condition 8501 means that you must have and maintain adequate health insurance for the whole of your stay in Australia. As such, you must not enter Australia before your OSHC has begun and you must not remain in Australia on your student visa without valid health insurance in place.

OSHC is required when applying for a student visa. You can not get a student visa without submitting a valid overseas student health cover for that period. In addition, you can not enter Australia without a valid visa.

Your visa start and expiry date will always lie in this range: {OSHC start date, OSHC expiry date}

What OSHC cover applies to Pharmaceuticals?

Only limited benefits for pharmaceuticals (or drugs) apply with a limit of $50 per pharmaceutical item to a maximum of $300 a year for a single membership ($600 for a family membership). With this in mind, you may face significant out of pocket costs if you need treatment for certain conditions. Treatment for oncology (cancer) as an example, could cost you tens of thousands of dollars per year!

Travellers entering Australia may bring in medicines and medical devices for immediate use and import small quantities for personal use. For more information see the Therapeutic Goods Administration website – Entering Australia and Personal Importation Scheme.

How much is OSHC in Australia?

The cost of the OSHC policy will depend on the level of cover that you choose; however, according to recent research, the lowest cost of minimum cover is $438/year for singles cover, $2,685/year for couples cover and $4,026/year for family cover (Australian dollars).

Like many insurance policies, there is isn’t, in general, a set cost for OSHC in Australia. As such, we recommend you seek at least 2 – 3 quotes from the providers listed below.

Where can I purchase OSHC?

A number of Australian insurers offer OSHC under a Deed of Agreement with the Department of Health. Given this deed is required. Only a small number of registered health insurers offer OSHC.

As of the date that this article was published. The following providers offer OSHC Coverage.

Which OSHC is best in Australia?

In a similar sense to the previous question around cost. Remember that all OSHC policy providers have to provide you with, as a minimum:

  • 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

Given the similarities in cover across all OSHC providers, we recommend that you base your selection on price (predominantly) followed by any additional features provided by the provider.

There are many comparison websites set up for this purpose and you may see some advertised when ‘googling’ OSHC policies. However, please keep in mind that some of these comparison websites may skew their ratings based on the size of the commission they get paid from the provider.

Websites such as Canstar (not a sponsored link) are a good starting point for those looking to compare providers as they keep their sales team separate from their research and editorial team. This ensures, the recommendations found represent a slightly more independent view.

Are you looking for Overseas Student Health Cover and still have questions?

We are here to help where we can. If you are a budding Australian Student visa holder and are in the process of researching Overseas Student Health Cover and you still have questions. Please post them in our comments below and we’ll be happy to help where we can.


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