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Reviewed and updated 25 April 2023

What is Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)?

If you come to Australia as an overseas student, the Australian Government says you must take out Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) unless you have an exemption.

The idea behind Overseas Student Health Cover is to shift the cost of healthcare from the Government to overseas students. It also ensures that overseas students can get affordable and high-quality healthcare while living and studying in Australia.

Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) is a requirement of your student visa. If you do not maintain it, your visa will be cancelled.

You need Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) for the entire time you are in Australia.


Does every overseas student have to take out Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)?

Yes. Nearly all overseas students have to take out Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).

You need Overseas Student Health Cover if you hold a:

  • 500 Student Visa
  • 590 Guardian Visa (if you are visiting Australia as a guardian of an international student under 18)

This is the case even if you are from a country that has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia:

  • Finland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • The Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Slovenia
  • United Kingdom.

While the Reciprocal Health Care Agreements give you access to public hospital care (as public patients, Medicare benefits and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)), they do not give you sufficient cover for holding a student visa.

There are only 3 exceptions:

  1. If you are a Norwegian student covered by the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme.
  2. If you are a Swedish student covered by Kammarkollegiet.
  3. If you are a Belgian student covered under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia.

In these 3 cases, you do not need Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).

If you apply to transfer to a 485 Graduate Visa, you need to change from Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) to Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC).


Who does Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) cover?

There are 4 types of Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC):

  • Single covers only you as the overseas student with a student visa.
  • Couple covers you as the overseas student and your partner.
  • Single parent covers you as the overseas student and your dependent children.
  • Family covers you as the overseas student, your partner and your dependent children. 

What does Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) cover?

Basically, Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) covers you in the same way an Australian citizen is covered under Medicare.

It must cover you for:

  • visits to the doctor
  • treatment in a public hospital
  • ambulance services (when you need to be admitted to hospital)
  • some prescription medicines (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) items).

What does Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) not cover?

Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) does not cover you for non-emergency treatment in a hospital.

It also does not cover you for Extras Cover treatments such as:

  • dental
  • optical
  • physiotherapy. 

If you want cover for these treatments, you need to take out Extras Overseas Student Health Cover.

You can also take out additional cover to supplement Overseas Student Health Cover, such as international travel insurance.


How does Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) work? 

When do I need to take out Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)?

You must buy Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) before you arrive in Australia and it must match the period you plan to study in Australia.

You need to show evidence of having taken out Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) when you apply for your student visa.

You cannot enter Australia until your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) has begun.

How does Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) work if I need medical or hospital treatment?

If you seek medical or hospital treatment while studying in Australia, you should contact your insurer before agreeing to treatment to check whether:

  • you are covered for the treatment
  • any out-of-pocket costs apply.

If you seek medical or hospital treatment, you will be given a bill. You have the choice whether to:

  • pay the bill at the time of treatment, or
  • provide the unpaid bill to your insurer to pay the health service provider directly.

The process for submitting a claim to an insurer depends on the particular insurer. We recommend you check with your insurer for details about the process they use.


How much does Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) cost?

The cost of your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) depends on:

  • the type of visa you hold
  • how long you plan to study in Australia
  • the number of people on your policy (partner and dependent children).

Does Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) have waiting periods?

Yes. You have to serve waiting periods for health services under Overseas Student Health Cover policies.

This means you may have to serve a waiting period before you can make a claim.

Usually, the waiting periods are:

  • pre-existing conditions: 12 months
  • pregnancy-related conditions: 12 months
  • pre-existing psychiatric conditions: 2 months.

You do not have to serve a waiting period for emergencies, even if it is for a pre-existing condition.


What are out-of-pocket expenses?

Some hospitals and doctors charge more than your insurer will pay for the treatment and care you are receiving.

This gap is known as an out-of-pocket cost.

Before agreeing to be treated, check with your insurer whether it covers the entire cost under your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) policy.


Can I claim the Private Health Insurance Rebate for Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)?

No. You cannot claim the Private Health Insurance Rebate for Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).


What is the best Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)?

Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) varies between insurers.

Always pay close attention to what is and is not covered under a particular policy.

Some insurers may also offer additional cover, including higher benefits for specific health services or Extras Cover.

We suggest you shop around.


Where can I take out Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)?

At present, only 6 private health insurers offer Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC):

Generally, you can buy Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) through:

  • your educational institution or university
  • the insurer
  • a migration agent
  • an education agent acting on behalf of your educational institution or university.

Can I change to a different Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) insurer?

Yes. You can change your insurer if you wish to do so.

You need to make sure your cover does not lapse at any time.

If you have already served a waiting period with one insurer, it will count towards waiting periods with the new insurer.


What do I do if I have a problem with my Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)?

If you have a problem with your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC), take these steps:

Step 1:

Contact your insurer and try to resolve the problem with them directly.

Step 2:

If your insurer is unable to resolve your problem, contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman


How can I compare Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)?

The best way to compare Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) is to go to the insurer websites:

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