What is an Overseas Visitor Health Cover?

  • November 02, 2020 12:11 AM AEDT
  • Edita Ivancevic
    Journalist Edita Ivancevic
    212 Posts

    Edita is a young journalist who graduated in 2019 from the Faculty of Political Science in Zagreb, Croatia, specialising in Television and Public Relations. Since the teenage years, Edita gained knowledge of news reporting and analysing complex curre...

What is an Overseas Visitor Health Cover?


  • All tourists and visitors in Australia are advised to take Overseas Visitor Health Cover. In specific cases, one might need health insurance based on one’s visa conditions.
  • OVHC is a tailored healthcare policy for tourists that do not have access to Australian free public healthcare, Medicare.
  • Prices and benefits for the cover vary for every private insurer. Some policies offer more benefits and coverage and thus will be more expensive than the others.
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As a tourist visiting Australia, one must consider getting healthcare insurance as a back-up plan. Before the pandemic heavily affected Australian tourism, the industry was booming with 9.4 million tourists visiting the country in 2019. Since February, there has been a significant drop with a 26% YoY decline in visitors in February, and no tourists since April.

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When foreigners come on a visitor visa, the Department of Home Affairs does not require signing up for private healthcare unless individuals personally opt for it. However, particular visas such as Subclass 482 or 485 (working visa) and overseas students need to get mandatory Overseas Visitor Health Cover (OVHC).

What is OVHC?

OVHC is health insurance that covers overseas visitors while they travel or reside in Australia. As temporary visitors do not have rights for Medicare access (Australian public health care system), OVHC is there to provide help in case of any medical emergency.

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What is the price for OVHC?

Depending on which OVHC policy one purchases, the price and coverage differ. If tourists spend more money on the policy, it will cover more procedures, and thus, less out-of-pocket costs.

On the contrary, if one does not wish to spend much, one can purchase a more basic OVHC policy. However, this could lead to higher bills if one needs medical attention.

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What does OVHC cover?

In general, most OVHC insurance policies cover necessary hospital fees and a fraction of doctor’s visitations.

In case tourists want to have extra security for accessing private specialists, they can purchase a General Treatment policy. General Treatment includes visits to the dentist, optometrist, gynaecologist, or any other specialist. However, General Treatment does not cover full expenses so individuals will need to pay for a part of costs from their own money.

INTERESTING READ: How does health insurance work?

What does it not?

As with any other private insurance, one should be careful about what policy to purchase. Some OVHC policies do not cover for many benefits while charging a high fee. If one suffers from any pre-existing conditions, they should think twice before getting OVHC as most of them do not cover for any pre-existing illness.

OVHC also covers only partially for prescribed medications. Treatments such as cancer drugs may be very high-priced without any OVHC cover, so tourists are advised to double-check what pharmaceuticals are under the policy before settling for OVHC.

Australian Border Force is usually strict with amounts of medications that are brought from overseas so tourists that need pharmaceuticals daily might want to look into their options concerning the issue.

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Where can one get OVHC?

Specific companies and private insurers deal with OVHC policies. It is also important to emphasise there are many ways of getting a similar type of insurance in case tourists would prefer something different. However, it is always advised to do some research about visas one wants to apply to.

Some of the most popular OVHC insurers in Australia are HCF, Allianz, nib Holdings (ASX:NHF), Bupa, Medibank (ASX:MPL), and others. Depending on the individual needs, one should compare policies these companies offer and decide which one best suits their needs.

Some travellers may prefer getting a travel insurance because it usually covers features that could not be claimed under OVHC (e.g. damaged or lost goods). More you pay, more you get. However, travel insurance must be issued outside Australia, as the country of origin is the one that issues refunds if things go south.

A few tips before purchasing OVHC

Every private insurer has different benefits, fees, and eligibility than its competitors. For that reason, tourists and visitors should check their options as thoroughly as possible so there would not be significant money losses.

  • One should always check if there are any waiting periods and how long they last. Many private insurance companies do not cover any expenses related to pre-existing conditions or will have a 12-month waiting period for the same issue.
  • Even though travel insurance and OVHC could be pricey, it could be a good idea to buy the vastest cover policy possible. Australian healthcare costs are expensive even for residents, and no one should feel anxious while travelling just because they did not get secured. However, some countries like the UK, Italy, Slovenia, Malta, Finland, Norway, Belgium, the Republic of Ireland, Sweden, and the Netherlands have the right to apply for Medicare during their time in Australia.
  • Payments for any form of health insurance should be maintained and always paid on time. Some companies might decide to not refund the claim if the customer did not pay its dues.
  • Double-checking insurer’s conditions is always a good advice. Before one goes to the hospital, they should always contact the private company and ask if the treatment will be paid in full, partially, or not at all.
  • Insurers should always be notified of any changes regarding the visa status. Sometimes people can switch to a more affordable and suitable policy if they meet certain requirements.
  • Limitations for claiming refunds are frequent so all users are advised to read their policy contract before undergoing treatment. Public hospital costs may rise more than A$1,000 without insurance.


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