The Australian health insurance system is as unique as the country itself. Because of this, it is important to familiarize yourself with how the country manages its health insurance system before study abroad there. This way, if you become unexpectedly ill or injured, you know exactly what is and is not covered and won’t be subject to any unfortunate surprises.
Australian citizens and permanent residents receive universal health care coverage through Medicare, a tax-funded public insurance program that subsidizes services and prescription medicines bought from pharmacies. This system Medicare was established in 1984 with the intention of providing high quality health care that is affordable and accessible to all Australian residents, regardless of their circumstances. Today it provides free treatment in public hospitals and also provides free or subsidized payments to private health professionals for specific services throughout the country.
In addition to Medicare coverage, just over half of all Australians receive additional coverage through private insurance. Even those entitled to Medicare coverage seek out private insurance because can be used in either private or public hospitals and allows patients a wider option of doctors and hospitals. It also covers services such as dental care and private hospitals. In 2018, private health insurance represented about 17% of health care funding in Australia.
Although managed by private companies, private insurance in Australia is still regulated by the Australian government. For example, the government supports patients by monitoring insurance companies to ensure that their community rating (a measure that shows that insurance companies charge equal premiums regardless of medical status or claims history, so that the chronically ill or the elderly are not overcharged) is observed..
As an international student in Australia, however, you are not eligible for Medicare and so you and any dependents will be required to purchase either 1) private insurance for programs lasting less than three months or 2) Overseas Student Health Cover for longer study periods.
In Australia, people who wish to undertake a course of study lasting three months or less may study while holding a tourist visa. For these students private international student insurance is recommended. Plans can be tailored cover just you or you may extend coverage to any dependents who are living with you during your time studying abroad in Australia. Benefits, membership costs, and eligibility can vary greatly among funds and insurance policies, so when buying international student insurance, make sure you do your research to be sure that the policy you purchase is best suited to your unique needs. Learn more about supplementary insurance options here.
If you wish to study in Australia for more than three months, a student visa is required and with it Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). OSHC is mandatory health insurance long-term visitors to Australia that includes coverage for visits to the doctor, some hospital treatment, ambulance cover, and limited medicines. There are five approved OSHC insurers that can provide a range of different OSHC products. These range from a basic product which covers only the compulsory minimum services to comprehensive products which cover—in addition to the compulsory minimum services—extra services as specified under the particular policy. You can learn more about the health insurance system in Australia, and work out which plans are best for you by talking with your school or sponsoring agency.