Australian Health Insurance for Work and Holiday Visa

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So you’re thinking of visiting or moving to Australia? You’re most likely planning out all the beautiful destinations you’d like to see and the logistics of how to get there. Visions of standing in front of the Sydney Opera House, feeding a kangaroo and drinking a flat white in Melbourne are probably vying for your attention.

In all that excitement, it’s easy to forget about health insurance. Even though health insurance is not a compulsory condition of the Work and Holiday visa, it is not something you should forgo. It’s one of those things that you hope you don’t need, but when you do, you’re so glad to have it.

It may be tempting to think you can get away with having no health insurance, but it’s really best to make sure you are covered. Put it in perspective: would you rather budget for insurance coverage for the duration of your trip or have to pay off a huge medical bill (and the ever frustrating contribution of interest) for years?

Health Insurance in Australia

Unfortunately for U.S. citizens, we do not have a reciprocal health care agreement with Australia. That means that all medical expenses you accrue have to be paid out of pocket. Unless, of course, you have health insurance, which will cover some or all of your medical expenses.

So now that you’ve decided to get health insurance, which should you get? Well, that really depends on how much coverage you want and how much you are willing to pay. I recommend shopping around a bit to see which company offers the best health insurance to meet your needs. Always be sure to read all of the fine print, so you fully understand what exactly will be covered by your health insurance.

The major health insurance companies that offer coverage to overseas travelers are: Allianz, Bupa, Medibank and Nib/IMAN. (IMAN is a subsidiary for Nib and specializes in covering overseas visitors)

The companies each have several different plans to choose from. The most basic plans will cover all services that Medicare (Australia’s public health system) covers as well as emergency services. Plans that include dental, vision and/or chiropractic coverage are generally only covered with the top plans.

My Health Insurance Recommendation

While I lived in Australia, I was covered through IMAN. I was very happy with the company and would use them again. IMAN has quality customer service and makes the process simple. Setting up my account was easy and filing claims was straightforward.

I started with the Value Plus Visitor Cover, which was great when I had to visit the doctor a couple of times and have some lab work done. I was able to mail in my claims with no problem, getting the full Medicare amount back for the services I used. If you need prescriptions or have to visit the doctor often, the Value Plus Visitor Cover is a good option.

As time went on, I no longer needed to routinely visit the doctor, so I dropped down to the Budget Visitor Cover. It is the cheapest plan and pretty bare bones. But the coverage was suitable for my time in Australia. The plan covers emergency and in-hospital services along with everything covered by Medicare. It’s a good option if you’re in relatively good health and don’t visit the doctor often.

IMAN Insurance Notes

Once you have an account set up, IMAN will mail you a health insurance card with your name and policy number. You should bring the card along with you to any visit to the hospital or a doctor. You’ll use the policy number when filing your claims.

Paying for the insurance and getting your reimbursements is very simple. You can opt to have payments automatically debited from your Australian bank account. And you are able to have reimbursement payments automatically deposited into your account.

When your time in Australia comes to an end, canceling your plan is a painless and quick phone call. Or, if you plan to return to Australia after an extended period away (at least two months, but no more than 24 months), you can call and have your coverage suspended, assuming you’ve been a customer of the company for a continuous 12-month period. Once you return, simply call again and have your coverage resumed.

Important Things to Note

Always be sure to read all of the fine print associated with your health insurance. Note any annual limits for coverage and waiting periods for coverage to begin. If your medical expenses exceed your yearly limit or are received during the waiting period, you will likely have to pay out of pocket.

Additionally, most policies require you (or someone on your behalf) to call the country’s emergency phone number (000) to have emergency services covered or reimbursed. Otherwise, your claim could be denied.

Also make certain that your emergency coverage includes being airlifted to any hospital in the country. A short helicopter ride to a hospital can cost tens of thousands of dollars if you aren’t covered, so ensure your insurance will fully cover the cost.

Finally, note which medical services are covered, meaning the insurance company pays for them up front, or reimbursed, meaning you have to pay up front but will be reimbursed upon filing a claim. And always keep copies of all receipts, signed by the medical provider when possible. It’s also a good idea to get the provider number.

Travel Insurance Health Component

Relying on your travel insurance to act as your health insurance is probably not a good idea. While most travel insurance plans will include some health insurance component, it is usually only for emergency situations. It can be very limited and won’t cover routine visits to a doctor or treatment for pre-existing illnesses and conditions. It’s also unlikely to cover ongoing expenses, such as prescriptions or follow up visits, even if they are the result of the original medical emergency.

Disclaimer: this information is provided to help you get started in your search for finding the right health insurance policy for you. It is not intended to be the sole resource for getting health insurance coverage. Always read the fine print of your policy and research the company you use.

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