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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:
- If you’re on a student visa, you must have OSHC.
- Applicants for particular working visas, such as the Temporary Skill Shortage visa (subclass 482) and Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485), and also Temporary Activity Visa (subclass 408) may also be required to take out a certain level of OVHC.*
- For all visa applicants with condition 8501, you’re required to maintain adequate health insurance for the duration of your stay.*
*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.
- 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
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
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
This can help you pay for medical treatment if you need to be admitted to hospital. It can help cover the cost of your admission or accommodation and the fees charged by doctors, surgeons and anaesthetists. It can also cover other costs associated with a stay in a private hospital.
This helps cover the costs of health care treatments outside a hospital setting which aren’t covered by Medicare. This can include major and minor dental treatment, orthodontics, hearing aids, physiotherapy, glasses, contact lenses and podiatry (in most cases with annual limits).
This is a standard health insurance policy designed for a single person, rather than being tailored to cater to the needs of a couple or family. It may include hospital cover plus extras, or either of these types of insurance on their own, depending on what you're after for your health cover.
A family health insurance policy is designed for a family unit including dependent children who may reach up to 31 years of age with some insurers. It offers private health insurance suitable for the whole family and may include shared limits for all members included in your policy.
A health insurance policy aimed at seniors is designed to appeal to people who are in the second half of their life. These are often specific Silver Plus policies that offer the same cover as other health insurance policies, with the exception that pregnancy and childbirth cover may not be included.
Visitors who are in Australia on a temporary basis for travel, work or study may be able to take out Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC). Many visas issued in Australia come with a requirement to take out this type of insurance, which covers visitors who may not be covered by Medicare.
Ambulance cover is generally available either packaged into your private health insurance or on its own as a separate policy or subscription. By having this protection, you could be covered for all eligible ambulance travel in Australia (subject to your insurer's terms and conditions).
The cheapest and most barebones form of private hospital insurance, this can include cover for rehab, in-hospital psychiatric services and palliative care. Having this policy will enable you to avoid paying the Medicare Levy Surcharge (MLS) and Lifetime Health Cover (LHC) loading.
Bronze hospital cover is a step up from basic insurance, including 18 further clinical categories such as ear, nose and throat, bone, joint and muscle, digestive system, joint reconstructions, gynaecology and chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy for cancer.
Silver hospital cover is the second-most expensive type of policy and offers the second-most clinical categories. On top of what's offered by basic and bronze cover, it also includes heart and vascular system, lung and chest, blood, hearing device implantation and dental surgery.
The highest level of private hospital insurance available in Australia, gold policies can offer cover for pregnancy and birth, weight loss surgery, assisted reproductive services and insulin pumps on top of all the categories provided by silver, bronze and basic hospital insurance.
Why compare health insurance through Savvy?
Top tips for choosing Overseas Visitors Health Cover
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.
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.
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.
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
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