Overseas Visitors Health Cover or OVHC should be considered by anyone visiting Australia for pleasure or business. Similarly to other countries around the world, healthcare costs in Australia are very high. Without proper health cover, out of pocket expenses can be very expensive and beyond the reach of most visitors. An operation along with a few days stay in the hospital can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Australia has a national healthcare system called Medicare that does not provide cover to overseas visitors, as it is meant only for Australia residents.
The Australian Government has a ‘Reciprocal Health Care Arrangement’ (RHCA) with several countries including Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, New Zealand, Norway , Slovenia, Sweden, the Netherlands, and United Kingdom (UK). If you are visiting Australia from any of these countries you may be covered under the Reciprocal Medicare for medically necessary emergency treatment in a public hospital; however, you would be responsible for any additional expenses. Medicare is not like NHS and provides basic cover at public hospitals. Therefore, it is extremely important for everyone to purchase Overseas Visitors Health Cover or OVHC.
Where can I purchase OVHC?
You can purchase Overseas Visitors Cover either from your home country, from an Australian insurance company or from the U.S. based company.
Many Australian insurance companies pay according to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) fee. E.g., if you visit a General Practitioner (GP), it may pay $37.05 but the doctor charges you $60. You will have to pay the difference of $22.95 ($60 - $37.05).
Excess (also called deductible) is the amount you pay before the insurance company pays anything. After satisfying the excess, most U.S. based plans will pay 100% up to the chosen policy maximum. Various excess choices are available ranging from $0 to $2,500.
Some Australian insurance plans only pay for semi-private rooms in the hospital whereas some U.S. based insurance companies will pay for private rooms in the hospital. Some Australian companies will only provide coverage for treatment provided at public hospitals while U.S. based plans give you the flexibility of public or private hospital.
Some Australian based OVHC policies exclude heart related expenses while most U.S. based OVHC plans do not have such exclusions.
U.S. based companies can provide cover ranging from 5 days to 3 years, and the premium is charged for the exact number of days.
The Visitors Visa (Visa sub class 600) allows the holders to stay in Australia up to 3, 6 or 12 months as a visitor or visitor for business purpose.
The eVisitor (Visa sub class 651) allows the holder to visit Australia up to 3 months at a time within 1 year, as a visitor or visitor for business purpose.
If your visa is subject to Condition 8501, please contact us with your exact details so that we can help you determine whether we have any suitable cover options for you.
What is covered?
Overseas Visitors Cover will pay for doctor visitors to a General Practitioner (GP), specialist, X-ray, pathology services, operation including theatre charges, hospital stay, ICU, ambulance and whatever else may be medical necessary. Most plans would exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions, maternity, preventive checkups or routine maintenance.
How to use it?
Many hospitals in Australia are generally a lot more willing to work directly with the U.S. based insurance companies, compared to other countries such as India or China. E.g., the mother-in-law of our company's CEO was visiting Australia, while there she suffered a heart attack. Brisbane General Hospital was willing to work with the U.S. based insurance plan that was purchased. They made direct billing arrangements and she had to pay only the excess (deductible).
In case you get sick, you should visit a general practitioner (GP) unless in case of an emergency, you should directly visit a hospital or call an emergency number. A GP can treat minor problems such as a cough, cold, flu, stomach ache and so on. GP can refer you for blood test, x-ray or specialist doctor as necessary. You can also visit a specialist doctor directly, if you like.
In case any provider does not bill the insurance company directly, you can pay out of pocket and file a claim for reimbursement of eligible expenses.
Overseas Visitors Health Cover does not have direct collaboration with the Australian Government’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), which means you will have to first pay, and then file for reimbursement.
You can either visit Australian public hospitals or private hospitals.
When to purchase?
For the widest selection of products, you should purchase Overseas Visitors Health Cover before arrival in the Australia. Once you arrive in Australia, some of the U.S. based plans may not be available.
If your Australian visa has specific insurance requirements that must be met, please contact us with your exact requirements so that we can advise whether any of our insurance cover will meet those requirements. If plans are available, you can purchase from our web site and you can print the visa compliance letter immediately.
Alternatively, if you would like to get cover for trip cancellation and curtailment, you can buy travel insurance. Travel insurance is available to residents of any country traveling to Australia.
Anyone visiting Australia for any reason should purchase Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) , just in case. Enjoy your worry free visit to Australia.