OSHC - Overseas Student Health Cover
Essential if you want to study in Australia
Firstly, it is important to know that you do have choice in who you get your OSHC cover from while you study in Australia. You are not obliged to use the OSHC provider your educational institution recommends.
OSHC is a product designed to assist international students meet the costs of medical treatment they may need while studying in Australia. It has been mandated by the Australian government that all international students in Australia, with a few exceptions, must have an OSHC policy for the duration of their Student Visa.
Primarily, OSHC provides for payments up to the current Medical Benefits Schedule. Essentially, this means that international students receive similar medical cover to Australian residents under their OSHC policies. The cover is base-level cover only.
The Australian medical landscape has two streams, public and private. Public healthcare is generally provided free of charge to Australians although more and more medical practitioners are pricing their services above the MBS, meaning a "gap" fee will need to be paid. In the private system, doctors essentially charge what the market will pay. As you would expect, generally service is better in the private health system. Having said that, for the most part, the private health system uses the same facilities as the public health system - in Australia going private is usually a choice related to access to medical personnel, rather than gaining access to medical facilities.
Separate health insurance, over and above OSHC, can be entered into in order to cover the cost of using the private health system. It should be noted that more and more, private health fund rebates do not cover the private medical practitioners' fees, so there will likely be out of pocket expenses, even with private health insurance on top of OSHC cover.
At a minimum, OSHC policies must cover the following:
- the benefit amount listed in the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) fee for out-of-hospital medical services (for example, a general practitioner)
- 100 per cent of the MBS fee for in-patient medical services (for example, surgery)
- public hospital shared ward accommodation
- private hospital shared ward accommodation (only for hospitals that have contractual arrangements with the overseas student’s health insurer)
- day surgery accommodation
- some prosthetic devices
- pharmaceutical benefits up to $50 per pharmaceutical item to a maximum of $300 a year for a single membership ($600 for a family membership). Overseas students may face significant out of pocket costs if they do not have appropriate coverage for treatment with pharmaceuticals, particularly oncology (cancer) treatment.
- ambulance services.
OSHC policies cannot cover the following expenses:
- arranged before coming to Australia
- needed while travelling to or from Australia
- transportation of an overseas student or dependent into or out of Australia for any reason
- covered by provisions for compensation and damages.
Students must obtain OSHC cover for the duration of their proposed student visa. If you extend your visa, you must renew your OSHC policy.
Many universities and education providers have a preferred provider deal with a specific insurer. Whilst every student has choice in which OSHC provider they use, we found that many students went with the default option, either because they wanted the simplest option, or because they were unaware that they had choice.
What are the benefits of going with a preferred provider?
Some of the benefits of taking your policy with the preferred provider include:
- On campus claiming. If you would rather not claim online, preferred providers often have an office on one campus of universities they have partnered with.
- Bulk billing on campus. If you need to visit a General Practitioner, in some instances the on campus GP will bulk bill for clients of the preferred provider.
- Altered policy conditions. Some OSHC providers may have a preferred provider arrangement with an educational institution where they offer a specific policy.
You should confirm who the preferred provider is for your university and investigate any extra benefits they may provide to students when you compare OSHC policies. Then you should decide whether those extra benefits outweigh the cost differential of the policies offered by the preferred partner.