Overseas Visitors Health Cover

Planning on travelling or working in Australia? Compare a range of overseas visitors health cover options here with Savvy.

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, updated on July 7th, 2023       

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We’ve partnered with Compare Club to bring you a range of health insurance policies to help you compare them side by side.

Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) is a type of health insurance policy designed for international visitors to Australia. It can provide cover for a range of medical expenses, hospital treatments and ambulance services while you’re living in Australia and is a requirement as part of most visas. Because of this, it’s important to take the time to compare your policy options, which you can do through Savvy.

You can compare a range of health insurance policies for visitors through us from a panel of leading Australian insurers. If you’re satisfied with a quote, you can buy your policy online today or talk it through with a member of our partner’s team of specialists. Start the process with Savvy and get a free quote today.

How does Overseas Visitors Health Cover work?

OVHC can provide private health insurance to foreign residents and visitors living in Australia. As many non-residents who travel to Australia to work or study don’t have access to the public Medicare system, OVHC helps cover visitors for their expenses in the event they require hospital or medical or other health care treatment.

For in-hospital services, doctors, surgeons and anaesthetists will generally charge a fee. OVHC can offer cover to assist you in paying these fees (subject to the insurer’s eligibility criteria and terms and conditions).

Each eligible medical service in Australia has been assigned a Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) fee. The MBS fee is the amount on which Medicare (Australia’s publicly-funded healthcare system) will calculate a rebate. If you’re charged the MBS fee for the treatment you receive, you may find that your OVHC policy can cover most of its cost.

However, in some cases, your doctor or medical practitioner may charge above the MBS fee. This difference is known as the gap. You’ll likely have to pay this gap (which is the difference between how much your treatment costs and the amount Medicare can reimburse) out of pocket.

For out-of-hospital services or treatments, the amount of cover you’ll receive will also depend on whether your doctor or medical practitioner charges at or above the MBS fee. For example, if you visit a general practitioner (GP), you can claim 100% of the MBS fee under your OVHC and pay any gap out of pocket. Check with your insurer if you’re unsure about how much you may be able to claim. 

There are certain circumstances in which OVHC is compulsory for foreigners who are residents in Australia for any length of time. For example: 

*Correct as of April 2023. However, visa requirements often change, so you should check them regularly to find out what requirements there may be to have current health insurance. 

What does Overseas Visitors Health Cover include?

All OVHC policies are different and the type of cover which is included will depend on the level of OVHC you take out. You may have three levels of cover to choose from: these are basic-level, mid-level and top-level cover. Each level of cover varies in price, with top-level cover offering the most comprehensive range of inclusions but costing the most. As a guide, the usual features of OVHC policies at each level are included below. Please note, inclusions may vary between policies.

Basic cover:

  • Emergency ambulance  
  • Medical services and/or treatment in hospital 
  • Hospital fees and accommodation 
  • Return to home country in the event of death or a life-changing illness
  • Prescriptions received in hospital

Medium cover:

Can cover all the basic level of inclusions plus: 

  • GP visits  
  • Specialist visits, such as outpatient radiology, pathology, dermatology and neurology
  • Out-of-hospital prescriptions  

Top cover:

Can cover everything the basic and mid-level policies do to a greater extent, as well as certain further services, such as:

  • Pregnancy and birth
  • Hip and knee replacement 
  • Some top-level policies may also offer cover for chiropractic, dental, optical and physical therapy

What are the benefits of taking out Overseas Visitors Health Cover?

There are a few key benefits to taking out OVHC: 

  • It could save you thousands of dollars: if you require medical treatment, you could potentially save yourself thousands of dollars by taking out OVHC
  • Emergency ambulance cover: ambulance transport can be expensive. If an ambulance is required in an emergency, OVHC may help cover the cost, depending on the level of coverage you have purchased
  • Peace of mind: by taking out OVHC, you may find peace of mind knowing that you can be covered for the costs of any medical treatment included under your policy’s terms and conditions

How do I compare my Overseas Visitors Health Cover options?

To begin comparing your options, you first need to figure out what health cover features matter to you most. Are you fine with the most basic OVHC option, which only offers partial cover for hospital bills? Or do you want more comprehensive cover for hospital bills and other features, such as GP visits or physical therapy?  

It’s important to figure out the monthly cost of OVHC which you can afford, based on your living budget. Whether you’re in Australia for extended travel purposes or working and living here, it’s essential to understand the cost you can afford for your health cover.

On top of your policy’s inclusions and cost, you can also consider each of the following points when comparing your options through Savvy:  

  • Cover for your existing medical conditions:  it’s vital to determine whether there are policies which can include cover for any existing medical conditions you may have within a suitable timeframe.In many cases, a waiting period may be required before you can claim expenses relating to a pre-existing condition, so consider what your options are in this area.
  • 24/7 helplines: these can offer telephone help and advice at any time of the day or night. Helplines can enable you to speak with a nurse or expert to discuss any health or insurance-related concerns. They can potentially save you the hassle of having to book a visit with a GP (if the health issue is just a minor one which can be answered quickly and easily by a nurse online).

Why should I get Overseas Visitors Health Cover?

While some may deem it a non-essential expense when living abroad on a work, study or bridging visa (or another eligible type of visa), opting not to take out health coverage could result in you facing expensive medical fees and overwhelming debt should you suffer a major illness or injury. Taking out OVHC means you’re insured for certain treatments should you require serious medical treatment.

In addition, certain visas require that you take out health cover as part of the approval process. As a general rule, if you’re expecting to work in Australia, OVHC is mandatory. If you’re here in Australia for leisure purposes, it isn’t mandatory but is highly recommended by the Australian Government.

Types of health insurance in Australia

Why compare health insurance through Savvy?

Top tips for choosing Overseas Visitors Health Cover

Take into account your financial budget

While it’s important to get health cover which can cover you comprehensively in the event of any medical issues or emergencies, it’s also vital you don’t stretch your finances beyond reason. Travelling overseas can be expensive, so you shouldn’t be paying over the top for OVHC if you won’t use it.

Don’t pay more for unnecessary features

While some features may look good on paper, they can also be a significant waste of money if you don’t use them at all. When deciding on your OVHC policy, thoroughly consider all its features and decide if you need every piece of coverage you’re paying for.

Know your OVHC policy back to front

Once you’ve decided on and purchased the best OVHC option for your situation, make sure you know its inclusions and exclusions back to front. As your travelling or personal situation evolves while you’re in Australia, make sure to check and update your OVHC policy accordingly.

Look out for special deals

Some insurers may offer specials, which can include things like a period of free coverage once you meet certain conditions, such as maintaining your payments for a set period. However, make sure to understand the terms and conditions of these promotions so it doesn’t end up costing you more in the long term.

Frequently asked questions about overseas visitors health cover

How much does Overseas Visitors Health Cover cost?

The cost of your OVHC will depend on the level of cover you wish to buy, as well as the type of insurance and the level you choose to set your hospital excess at. Other factors, such as your age and pre-existing conditions, won’t have a direct impact on the cost of your insurance, as private hospital insurance is community-rated in Australia.

What’s the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and does it apply to Overseas Visitors Health Cover?

The Australian Government’s MBS details a variety of procedures, consultations and tests. Each item listed will also have a scheduled fee, which is used to determine the rebate of that medical service or treatment. Items listed on the MBS can include things like a GP appointment or a blood test and may or may not be covered by your health insurance. Doctors and surgeons aren’t required to charge the MBS fee.

What is a reciprocal health care agreement?

A reciprocal health care agreement (RHCA) is an arrangement between countries which allow visitors from either country to access basic health care services while in the other country. This means that if your home country has a RHCA with Australia, you may be partially or fully covered by Medicare for certain treatments. The countries which have a RHCA with Australia (as of April 2023) are:

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

 

However, a RHCA doesn’t cover all medical expenses, so OVHC is still important if you want to avoid having to pay the full cost of private hospital treatment, ambulance transport, dental treatment and more. 

Who provides the best Overseas Visitors Health Cover?

The best OVHC depends purely on your situation and what you seek from your cover. It’s widely available across many Australian health and general insurers, as well as insurance policies which may be issued in other countries. Ultimately, the best OVHC is the one which will insure you as comprehensively as possible for the most affordable price. You can start the comparison process with Savvy today.

What is extras cover and can I get it on my Overseas Visitors Health Cover?

Extras cover is a form of insurance designed to insure a variety of treatments and services out of hospital. These can include: 

  • General or major dentistry work
  • Physical rehab services such as massage, chiropractor, acupuncture and physical therapy
  • Optical services

 

If you’re on OVHC, it’s possible to take out extras cover. If you wish to be covered for extra treatments, you’ll either have to purchase a policy which includes the treatment you need or purchase a standalone extras policy.

Is OVHC suitable for tourists who intend to live in Australia for several months?

Yes, OVHC is a suitable type of insurance for people who intend to live in Australia for an extended holiday as tourists. It can provide more comprehensive health insurance than some travel insurance for long-term tourists, and could possibly represent better value for money. 

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