Do I need medical insurance to travel to Australia?

health insurance travel australia

Depending on multiple factors, foreign nationals applying for an Australian visa to enter the country may need to purchase health insurance for the duration of their visit. This may be a requirement for their visa to be granted or a way to avoid hefty hospital bills should they need medical attention while in Australia.

There are many things to consider before signing up for medical cover. This article includes information about Australian visas that require health insurance and how to find the right medical insurance for your needs.

Do I Need Health Insurance to Travel to Australia?

For many, travel and health insurances are mandatory requirements in order to obtain their Australian visa. For others, it’s a matter of personal choice. There are two main elements determining whether you are obliged to purchase health cover before you travel: nationality and visa type.

Many Australian visas require mandatory medical insurance to be approved but some nationalities are exempt due to bilateral agreements between Australia and other countries. This means that citizens of specific nations will have access to Medicare, the Australian public health care system:

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

However, access to Medicare may be limited and most short-term visas are not eligible for Medicare, regardless of the visa holder’s nationality.

If you’re not obliged to get health cover, it’s still important to consider it before you fly. You are financially responsible for any medical costs you incur in Australia. If you are not eligible for Medicare, you will have to pay as a private patient for all medical attention you receive, including hospital and emergency treatment.

Outstanding health debts will be considered as you apply for an Australian visa in the future and may prevent you from being granted access.

What Australian Visas Require Medical Insurance?

The level of health cover required for you to travel to Australia will depend on your visa. There are many Australian visa classes and subclasses, all with specific requirements. As a rule of thumb, the longer your visa allows you to stay in the country for, the more likely it is to require health cover.

The 3 main types of visas for Australia are: student visas, working visas, and visitor visas.

  • Student visas need a specific type of insurance — the Overseas Student Health Cover or OSHC — in order to be approved. The minimum plan should include medical and hospital cover, plus emergency ambulance transport and limited pharmaceutical cover.
  • Working visas vary and the majority require health insurance. In these cases, you should get cover for in-patient medical services and hospital care, plus ambulance services.
  • Generally speaking, most visitor visas (ETA, eVisitor, etc.) do not require medical insurance. However, visitors staying for longer than a few weeks should consider getting coverage for essential treatment in order to travel with peace of mind.

How to Choose Health Insurance for Australia

When you decide to buy health insurance to travel to Australia, you may realize that there are plenty of providers and options both in your home country and in Australia. In some cases, signing up with an international insurer may be easier — this may be the case if you prefer to sign a contract in your native language or wish to take advantage of the many ‘backpacker deals’ offered to young travelers planning a gap year in Australia.

However, getting coverage from a local Australian provider has its benefits. Processing medical bills from Australian practitioners may be smoother and you may see your refund claim approved quicker. Moreover, Australian insurers are well aware of visa requirements and offer specific insurance plans designed for different visa holders.

Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing insurance for Australia:

  • Your visa requirements. As mentioned above, different visas require different coverages.
  • Length of coverage. Most travel insurance policies offer coverage for only 30 – 60 days per destination. If you’re planning to stay longer in Australia, make sure that your policy covers the entirety of your visit.
  • Price per policy and price per person. Some policies allow you to include several family members in case you’re not traveling alone.
  • Pre-existing conditions. Most basic policies won’t cover pre-existing medical conditions. These may vary from diabetes and heart disease to visual impairment.

Your priorities. Different plans insure different services. Consider what your priorities are and what medical coverages would give you peace of mind. These may also include compensating your family members should they incur in repatriation expenses.