Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)

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What is OSHC?

Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) insurance is a type of health insurance that you must have if you are an international student visiting Australia to study. 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.

Apart from countries that have a reciprocal healthcare arrangement with Australia, international students must have OSHC insurance as a condition of entry. 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 researched 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.

International students from Belgium, Norway, and Sweden do not have to purchase OSHC for their visas. These countries have a healthcare agreement with Australia, so they will be covered by the Australian public health system (Medicare).

Comparing OSHC student health insurance policies

If you are looking for OSHC student health insurance, 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.

What does OSHC insurance cover?

OSHC overseas student health insurance will help cover the costs of medical care (seeing a doctor), hospital care, pharmacy medications, and ambulance services, if you need it while you are in Australia.

The OSHC health policies that CANSTAR researches and rates are almost identical, except for the price, because they must cover many medical services. Some providers offer different amounts of cover for certain things, and some providers also offer extra cover such as “repatriation” cover to help you go home if you have a medical emergency.

The Australian Department of Health requires that all OSHC insurance policies must cover the benefit amount listed ($) in the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) for these things:

  • 100% of MBS fee for in-patient medical services in hospital such as treatment by a doctor and most surgeries and therapeutic procedures.
  • Your stay (“accommodation”) in a public hospital shared ward.
  • Your stay in a shared ward in a private hospital that has an arrangement with your OSHC insurance provider.
  • Your stay in a hospital or clinic for day surgery.
  • Some prosthetic devices such as those used in joint replacement surgery.
  • 100% of MBS fee to visit a doctor or GP out of the hospital.
  • 85% of MBS fee to visit a specialist out of the hospital.
  • Tests and examinations ordered by doctors to treat illnesses, such as x-rays and blood tests.
  • Pharmacy medicines, up to $50 per medicine, with a maximum limit of $300/year for a single person ($600 for a family). This means that 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 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 what you will find is that the premium costs can go up for longer visa lengths.

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
1 year $501
2 years $505
3 years $513
4 years $556
5 years $569

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. 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 researched insurance providers who offer OSHC in 2016 are:

  1. Australian Health Management (AHM)
  2. Bupa Australia
  3. Medibank Private
  4. Allianz Global Assistance (Lysaght Peoplecare)
  5. NIB

You can buy your OSHC insurance through your educational institution or you can buy it online on an insurance provider’s website. You can choose your own OSHC provider, even if your university or school has a “preferred provider” and recommends that you choose their provider.

Can I transfer or switch providers?

You can transfer to a different OSHC insurance provider 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. You will not have to serve the waiting periods again after you change OSHC providers.