Overseas Visitors Health Cover

Planning on travelling or working in Australia? If this is you and you’re exploring health cover options, we’re here to help!

Last updated on May 4th, 2022 at 03:29 pm by Bill Tsouvalas

Compare overseas visitors health cover options

Taking out overseas visitors health cover is a very important part of overseas travel. Travelling without health cover is a great risk and can lead to significant costs for unexpected health-related services or treatments away from home. Find out how you can compare the best overseas visitors health cover options in this comprehensive guide. 

How does overseas visitors health cover work?

Overseas visitors health cover (OVHC) is essential in providing private health insurance to foreign visitors in Australia. As most foreigners who travel to Australia do not have access to our public Medicare system, OVHC helps to insure visitors for potential expenses in the event of requiring hospital or medical treatment. 

 For in-hospital services, a doctor, surgeon or anaesthetist will charge you a fee. If your relevant medical practitioner charges you the MBS (Medicare Benefits Schedule) fee and the corresponding service is included in your OVHC, you will be insured. Should they choose to charge you above the MBS fee for your medical treatment or service, you will be liable to pay the remaining difference.  

 For any out-of-hospital services or treatments, cover will depend on the level of OVHC policy you take out. Under basic-level cover, any visit to a GP (local doctor) for minor health issues will incur a fee. Should you have a mid-level or top-level cover, this visit and the treatment at your GP will be covered under your OVHC.  

 In certain circumstances, you may be required to take out OVHC. For instance: 

  • If you’re on a student visa, you must have OVHC.  
  • Applicants for particular working visas – such as the Temporary Skill Shortage visa (subclass 482) and Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485) – will also be required to take out a certain level of OVHC. This OVHC must meet a specific set of requirements.  
  • For visa applicants with condition 8501, you must also choose an OVHC option which best suits your needs and visa requirements.  

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 will 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. As a guide, the usual features of OVHC policies at each level are included below. Please note, inclusions may vary between policies.  

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

Covers all the basic level of inclusions plus: 

  • GP visits  
  • Specialist visits e.g. dermatologist and neurologist.  
  • Out-of-hospital prescriptions  

Covers everything the basic and mid-level policies do but to a greater extent.  

  • Pays more towards hospital treatments or services e.g. for a private room or extra money for out-of-hospital prescriptions.  
  • Some top-level policies will offer cover for chiropractic, dental, optical and physical therapy (at a higher cost).  

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 medical treatment or service is required, you could save yourself thousands of dollars by taking out OVHC.  
  • Emergency ambulance cover – ambulance transport can often be one of the most expensive downsides of medical treatment or services. If an ambulance is required in a medical emergency, you will be covered under your OVHC.  
  • Peace of mind – when travelling, you don’t want to have concerns over illness or injury cutting your trip short or resulting in your trip costing significantly more than expected. By taking out OVHC, you will have peace of mind in knowing that you can travel freely, and experience what you wish without fear of repercussions should you be required to use health-related services or undergo treatment.  

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?  

Furthermore, it’s important to figure out the monthly price of OVHC which you can afford based on a travel or living budget. Whether you be in Australia for travel purposes or working and living here, expenses can build up and it’s important you work out the price of cover you can afford.  

Ensure you prioritise each of the following when utilising Savvy’s comparison services to compare difference OVHC policies:  

  • Cover for your medical conditions – While it may add extra to the cost of OVHC, it’s vital that you include policies which include cover for any medical conditions you may have. If your condition may result in you having regular hospital visits or treatments, you will save considerably by having it included under your OVHC.  
  • Cover which doesn’t include unnecessary features – When choosing your cover, you want to avoid policies which have inclusions that don’t pertain to you as best as possible. Insurers may try to recommend certain features, but you need to consider if they are truly worthwhile. If you don’t often require prescriptions, you may be able to forgo cover for out-of-hospital prescriptions. Perhaps you’re of sound general health and rarely require visits to your doctor in your home country. If that’s the case, you may not require cover for GP visits.  
  • 24/7 helplines – these are essential for help and advice at any time of day. Helplines will enable you to speak with a nurse or expert to discuss any health-related concerns, or insurance-related concerns. When in a foreign country, and with little knowledge about the local health system, this is a must-have with your insurer.  

Why should I get overseas visitors health cover?

While some may deem it a non-essential expense when travelling, opting to not take out health cover could result in you facing fees and overwhelming debt. Taking out OVHC will give you peace of mind, and an ability to travel carefree knowing you’re insured should a worst-case scenario eventuate and you be required to undergo medical treatment or services.  

In addition, certain visas require that you take out health cover to have your visa approved. As a general rule, if you are expecting to work in Australia, OVHC is mandatory. If you’re here in Australia for leisure-travel purposes, it isn’t mandatory but is highly recommended. 

Top tips for choosing overseas visitors health cover

Consider your medical condition in relation to what type of OVHC you need

Any pre-existing medical conditions may require a more expensive health cover but it will ensure you have peace of mind on your travels. You will also need to break down what other features are important to you. You may wish to choose a OVHC option which includes dental cover or GP visits; bear in mind that cover which includes these options will be more expensive.   

Take into account your financial budget

While it is important you get health cover which covers you comprehensively in the event of any medical issues or emergencies, it’s also vital you don’t stretch your finances beyond reason. Travelling can be expensive and you shouldn’t be paying overs for OVHC you won’t make the most of.  

Don’t pay more for unnecessary features

While some features may look good on paperthey can also be a significant waste of money if you won’t take advantage of them at all. When deciding on your OVHC policy, thoroughly consider all of the features and their worth to you.  

Know your OVHC policy back to front

Once you have decided on and purchased the best OVHC option for your situation, make sure you know its inclusions and exclusions back to front. In addition, always keep a copy of your policy on hand to ensure you have easy access to any queries or concerns whenever an issue arises. As your travelling situation, or perhaps personal situation changes while you’re in Australia, make sure to check and update your OVHC policy accordingly. 

Look out for promos and specials

Some insurers will offer promos or specials for the beginning duration of your OVHC. These can include things like a free six weeks at the beginning of your OVHC. However, do make sure to understand the terms and conditions of these promotions or specials 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 vary based on the level of cover you opt for and any further features you seek in a stand-alone extras policy. More basic forms of OVHC can cost as little as $51-$78 per month. For mid-level cover, costs range between $80-$140 per month. If you want more comprehensive, top-level OVHC, you may be looking at a cost of $160-$330 per month for full coverage including hospital, dental, pregnancy, GP and medical repatriation cover. 

Are overseas visitors who hold temporary Australian visas eligible for the public Medicare system?

Overseas visitors with temporary Australian visas are not eligible for Medicare. Therefore, if you require medical attention in Australia, you could face significant fees of up to $1,000 per day in a public hospital. If you’re in this position, you should take out overseas visitor’s health cover to protect your health and finances in the event of injury or illness.  

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 schedule fee which is used to determine the cost of your medical service or treatment and may or may not be covered under your OVHC depending on your policy. Items listed on this MBS can include things like a GP appointment or a blood test.

Does Australia provide reciprocal health care for my country?

11 countries share in a reciprocal health care agreement with Australia. These are: Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom. It’s important to note that in no way does reciprocal health care replace the need for travel insurance or health cover. This agreement will provide you with health care only in urgent or medically necessary situations. In addition, this health care will usually require a co-payment from the patient. 

Does overseas visitors health cover have a co-payment?

Your overseas visitors health cover may come with a co-payment depending on the policy you choose. A co-payment is where you pay a specific amount for each day you spend in hospital. Co-payments usually begin after you have spent a certain period of time in hospital e.g. after 5 days. They may also have a yearly cap or only count towards stays in private rooms and can be both limited and unlimited, but if you expect to have a long stay in hospital, it’s handy to know what your policy allows.   

Who provides the best overseas visitors health cover?

The best OVHC depends purely on your situation and what you seek from your cover. OVHC is widely available across many Australia health and general insurers, as well as insurance policies which may be issued in other countries. Ultimately, the best OVHC is the one that will insure you as comprehensively as possible and give you the peace of mind that you will be fine if an unfortunate medical event does occur.  

What is extras cover and can I get it on my overseas visitors health cover?

Extras cover is form of insurance taken out to insure a variety of treatments and services out of hospital for added protection. This can include: 

  • General or major dentistry work.  
  • Physical rehab services e.g. massage, chiropractor, acupuncture and physical therapy.  
  • Optical services 


If you’re on OVHC it is possible to take out extras cover but in a different manner to a traditional extras policy. If you wish to be covered for extra treatments such as the above, you will either have to purchase a policy which includes the treatment you need or purchase a stand-alone extras policy.   

Can I get dental cover on my overseas visitors health cover?

Yes. Certain mid or top-level OVHC policies will offer dental cover for general treatments, as well as cover for more major dental work such as root canals and crowns. If your policy doesn’t offer dental cover, it’s possible to take out dental cover under a stand-alone extras policy.