What is Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC)?

Visitors to Australia may be required to take out insurance to cover unexpected health expenses while in the country. This is called Overseas Visitors Health Care Cover (OVHC).

While Australians can typically have access to the universal health care system, Medicare, this may not be available to non-residents. Instead, OVHC can help to reduce the out-of-pocket costs of seeking treatment, and in some instances, may be compulsory.

What is Overseas Visitors Health Cover and what does it cover?

Overseas Visitors Health Care Cover (OVHC) is a form of health insurance that is designed specifically for international visitors to Australia. It can be purchased by people who are visiting or temporarily residing in Australia. The insurance will provide cover for a number of instances if you become unwell or are involved in an accident. Some costs it may cover, depending on the policy, include:

  • hospital fees
  • general practitioner (GP) fees
  • ambulance transport
  • some pharmacy costs

You may also be able to get covered for ‘extras’ such as dental, physiotherapy, optical and chiropractic services. These may be as an add-on option with your policy and come at an additional cost to your premium. 

What costs are not covered by OVHC?

Not all your medical costs will be covered under an OVHC policy. Many non-necessary (or elective) services will not be covered. For example:

  • procedures not recognised by Medicare
  • elective cosmetic surgery
  • non-emergency ambulance
  • IVF and other assisted reproductive services

What is offered on an OVHC policy will differ from fund to fund, so it’s important to read relevant  policy documents carefully before signing up. You may like to read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Target Market Determination (TMD), before making a purchase decision, and you can contact the product issuer directly for a copy of the PDS and TMD.

Is OVHC compulsory and who needs it?

Any non-Australian residents visiting Australia should consider OVHC to help cover unexpected medical expenses. Some visas require the holder to have a valid OVHC policy as part of the visa conditions. Any visa with condition 8501 (that you must have and maintain adequate health insurance for your stay in Australia), and applicants for working visas such as a Temporary Skill Shortage visa (subclass 482) or Temporary Graduate Visa (subclass 485), must hold an OVHC policy that meets the visa requirements.

International students studying in Australia may be required to take out Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). If you have any other visa and don’t have any form of Medicare benefits or reciprocal Medicare benefits, aside from considering OVHC, you might purchase Australian residents’ private health insurance if you’ve got an interim (usually blue) or full (usually green) Medicare card.

Does Medicare cover overseas visitors?

Residents and citizens of countries that have a reciprocal health agreement with Australia will have some level of subsidised health cover. This may provide access to immediate necessary medical treatment in Australia’s public health system. These countries currently are:

  • Belgium
  • Finland
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom

Note that this agreement will only cover basic medical needs, and it is still worthwhile considering an OVHC policy for additional cover.

What to consider when comparing OVHC policies

OVHC policies will each have some differences from one another, so it is a good idea to compare before you choose one. You can consider the cost of the premium, what is and is not covered, how much the excess is and whether there are optional extras you may want. It is a good idea to determine whether the policy covers the requirements of your visa, and also consider the coverage you receive rather than basing your decision purely on cost.

Cover image source: Guschenkova/Shutterstock.com

Original article by William Jolly

This content was reviewed by Sub Editor Jacqueline Belesky as part of our fact-checking process.

Shay has worked in content for over a decade. Her experience includes PR and copywriting in Australia and the UK where she consulted to Lloyds Banking Group. She also gained work experience at Czech Republic English-language newspaper The Prague Post and Quest newspaper The Wynnum Herald.

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