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The tragedies unfolding across the globe during this pandemic have shown the importance of having a good national healthcare system. Australia has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Last year it ranked ninth in the world for the general quality of the healthcare system. As an international student, you want to ensure that you’ll be able to get help for any unforeseen medical situations during your time in Australia. Thankfully, as an international student you’ll be able to access Australia’s excellent healthcare system through a variety of options.

How does the healthcare system work in Australia?

Australia has universal healthcare coverage through a program called Medicare. Medicare is a government funded public insurance system that covers most medical care, including GP appointments and access to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The PBS is a government funded system that provides heavily subsidized access to prescribed medicines.

In addition to Medicare, approximately 50% of Australians have private health insurance. This insurance covers private hospital care and dental care. Private health insurance enables these Australians to access a greater choice of care in both the private and public system

Can international students access the Australian healthcare system?

Yes. As international students you are able to access the Australian healthcare system via the Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). The OSHC is a condition of entry into Australia as an international student. OSHC is a specific type of private health insurance designed for international students. OSHC is provided by a number of insurance providers. Services and prices vary according to each provider but, at a minimum, they cover GP appointments, in-patient treatments (such as surgery), emergency services and hospital accommodation.

If you are a student from one the following countries you do no need to purchase OSHC:

  • Belgium
  • Norway
  • Sweden
  • New Zealand

In addition, Medicare benefits (including PBS) are available to students from the following countries that have reciprocity healthcare agreements:

  • UK
  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • Sweden
  • The Netherlands
  • Finland
  • Belgium
  • Norway
  • Slovenia
  • Malta
  • Italy

If you are from one of the countries above please check the details of your country’s arrangement with Australia, as each agreement varies.

What do international students need to do?

It is a condition of the study visa that international students in Australian obtain OSHC (except for the exceptions noted above). OSHC enables international students to access the healthcare system without experiencing financial hardship.

There are two options for purchasing OSHC; directly with the provider or via your university. Some universities have arrangements with certain OSHC providers and will arrange OSHC on your behalf. Please note that you do not need to go with this provider. You are able to shop around for the best provider for your circumstances. Comparison sites, like OSHC Australia, are useful for this task.

Prices vary according to each student but prices for single international students are around AUD$500.

Before purchasing any OSHC ensure that you understand your needs, what the plan covers and how the plan works. There are a variety of resources available to help with this process, including your student services at your chosen university.

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