In Australia, when students get sick, do they really have to put too much money out of pocket? Learn everything about the Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)
Many international students worry about the costs for medical treatment in Australia. Uncountable questions pop up on their minds: What if I don’t have enough money to look after my health?What if I need to visit a specialist?Indeed medical care can be pricey, however, there’s something called OHSC!
The Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) is a health insurance program for international students in Australia.
- Australian Government requires that every student purchases a health insurance plan that will cover them for the same length of their studies
- This will probably cover most of your medical expenses in case you get sick
- You can only apply for a student visa once you have chosen your OSHC provider
As mentioned before, this is only required to people that will hold a student visa.
You can always choose the provider of your preference, but if you want to make things easier, your school can also arrange it for you. Schools work in partnership with reliable health insurance companies and asking your own school to prepare it will give you one less thing to worry about, which is pretty convenient.
The OSHC providers that are approved by the local government are:
You can fully activate your OSHC as soon as you land in Australia. It can be done either online or over the phone.
Before anything, you always need to confirm with your OSHC provider which services are covered. Never assume that everything will be reimbursed, otherwise you may have an expensive surprise. Generally, expenses with the Dentist and the Optometrist are not eligible for refunds, so make sure you double check this with your insurance company.
Also, there are some cases where you need to give money out of pocket to pay for a particular service. Even though it will be reimbursed, it can take several days to be credited into your bank account. Keep your receipts, you will need them to claim your money back.
In most of the cases your bill will be sent straight to your insurance company to be paid. But sometimes it can arrive at your Australian address. If this is the case, don’t freak out! You just need to pay for it and ask for the refund.
Although OSHC has several insurance providers, the services are roughly the same, including:
- Hospital insurance
- Medical service insurance
- Pharmaceutical insurance
- Emergency ambulance assistance, among others
In general, hospital insurance is fully reimbursable.
Other medical services outside the hospital, such as GP or specialists, x-rays and others can vary. Each company has their own policies and the refund can fluctuate between 85% or 100% of the total fee.
Prescribed drugs work a bit different: the basis payment is $32.90. Above this amount, your OSHC provider will pay you back the difference between the actual drug price and the $32.90.
E.g. The medicine costs $35, so $35 – $32.90 = $2.10 to be claimed.
- Surgeries not approved by the Medical Services Advisory Committee
- Cosmetic surgeries (without proven need)
- Non-emergency ambulance transport
- Artificial insemination and assisted reproductive services
- Experimental treatment
Each health insurance provider has their own refund process, but usually the procedure is:
Out of pocket reimbursement:
The student pays their own expenses and use the invoice to claim the expenses.
Access your OSHC provider website;
- Log into your account
- Fill the online form with the details of your medical expense
- Submit the claim
- Write down the Reference Number of this claim
- Write this same Reference Number on the back of the original invoices
- Send by mail to your OSHC provider
- Request a reimbursement application form. (You can take it from your school or download it from the website: www.oshcworldcare.com.au)
- Fill it out and attach the receipt or original invoice
- Send it by mail to your OSHC provider
*friendly reminder: If you intend to extend your student visa, you need to do the same with your OSHC.
Now you understand everything about OHSC! But you must be asking yourself: What should I do to get medical treatment?
There are two types of medical facilities in Australia: Clinics/Medical Centres and Hospitals. In the first one, your appointment will be with a General Practitioner (GP). In the second you will be treated by a specialist.
Generally, this is the doctor who will assess you in the first instance. He will give you the appropriate treatment and if needed, he will refer you to a specialist. This appointment should be booked in advance, since the medical centres can get quite busy. You’ll probably be lucky if you simply show up and they fit you between other patients’ appointments.
If after assessing you, your GP decided that you should go to a specialist, he will write you a letter referring you to the appropriate professional. Don’t worry, if your case is an emergency they will know and will give you the correct treatment.
Public hospitals in Australia have a 24/7 emergency room to assist you, however, there might be other more urgent cases there. In this case, the hospital will prioritise all patients according to the severity of their symptoms. Don’t get frustrated if you take too long to get treated, it just means your case is not too bad 😉
Ah! Even though these hospitals are public, it doesn’t mean they will be free of charge for non permanent residents. So, make sure you double check that before going to one.
There are also private hospitals that you can go to. They are much quicker, but also much more expensive if you don’t have a private health insurance (OSHC cannot be used in this case).
If you have a slight discomfort, you can even go to a pharmacy and ask for advice from a pharmacist. They will recommend you some commonly used drugs.
Different from many other countries, in Australia there are some drugs that cannot be purchased without a doctor prescription, you will probably find out which ones they are when you get to the chemist…
You can find services in your OSHC provider’s website. They have a list and you can filter it according to the most convenient location for you.
Last but not least, never forget the most important numbers:
000 – Call this number in case of an emergency.
1800 022 222 – Call this number for 24/7 medical advice.
If you are feeling unwell, never ignore your symptoms. Seek medical treatment right away! If you are a student at Times Academy, you can always contact our staff. They will be more than happy to help you with any adversity.
Always remember: Your health comes first in your list of priorities.