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Posted On : 21 February 2024     |     By : Kangaroo Edu

Navigating the Australian Healthcare System: An Essential Guide for International Students

No matter your race, religion, gender or country of origin, medical emergencies can occur anytime and anywhere. Fortunately, the Australian Healthcare System stands out as one of the best in the world, demonstrating excellent medical practices, advanced equipment, and experienced practitioners.    However, as an international student, it can sometimes be confusing and tough to navigate the Australian healthcare system effectively. But fear not, this guide is all you need. We’ve prepared a comprehensive guide that encompasses insights into pivotal aspects of the Australian Healthcare System such as Medicare, Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC), available health insurance options, procedures for accessing medical services, protocols for handling emergencies, and the utilisation of healthcare facilities.   Let’s get right into it.

Medicare

  Medicare is Australia’s universal health care insurance scheme, covering most medical services and subsidising some prescription medicines. To access Medicare, international students need to enrol and obtain a Medicare card. This card enables students to receive free or low-cost treatment in public hospitals and bulk-billed services from doctors and specialists. Additionally, some benefits can be claimed online or by phone.   Bulk billing refers to a billing practice where healthcare providers, such as doctors or specialists, directly bill Medicare for their services, without charging the patients (you) any out-of-pocket expenses. Essentially, you are not required to pay anything for the medical consultation or treatment received, as the entire fee is covered by Medicare.  

How To Get Medicare Health Insurance?

As an international student, you may be eligible for Medicare benefits if you are from one of these countries:
  • United Kingdom
  • The Republic of Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • Sweden
  • Netherlands
  • Finland
  • Belgium
  • Norway
  • Slovenia
  • Malta
  • Italy
  These countries have reciprocal health care agreements with Australia that allow their citizens to access Medicare for immediate necessary medical treatment in the public health system. However, Medicare does not cover all the health services that you may need, and you still need to have OSHC as a visa requirement.   To apply for Medicare, you need to visit a Medicare service centre and bring your passport, student visa, and enrollment letter from your education provider. You will also need to fill out a Medicare enrollment form. You will receive a Medicare card that you can use to claim Medicare benefits when you access health services.  

OSHC (Overseas Student Health Cover)

Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) is mandatory for international students studying in Australia. OSHC helps cover medical and hospital care not covered by Medicare, including ambulance, dental, optical, and physiotherapy services. It’s crucial to arrange OSHC before arriving in Australia and maintain it for the duration of your student visa. With various providers available, students can compare prices and benefits to choose the most suitable OSHC plan.  

How To Get OSHC Health Insurance?

You can buy OSHC from one of the registered health insurers that offer OSHC plans. You can compare plans and prices by visiting their websites. Some of the OSHC providers are:  
  • ahm OSHC
  • Allianz Care Australia (Peoplecare)
  • BUPA Australia
  • CBHS International Health
  • Medibank Private
  • nib OSHC
  You need to maintain your OSHC for the duration of your visa in Australia. If you change your course or extend your stay, you need to renew your OSHC accordingly.

Accessing Medical Services

Even after obtaining your health insurance, it can be puzzling to access all the medical services you need in Australia. So, let’s go over the key points you need to consider as an International student for maintaining your health and well-being during your stay:  

Choosing a Healthcare Provider

When you’re seeking medical assistance, you have the option to visit a general practitioner (GP), walk-in clinics, or hospital emergency departments, depending on the urgency of your situation. You will also have to consider factors such as location, opening hours, and language proficiency of healthcare providers for the best outcome.

Appointment Booking

Many GP clinics require you to make appointments for consultations, while some may also offer walk-in appointments. However, it is advisable to book appointments in advance, especially for non-urgent medical concerns, to ensure timely access to healthcare services.  

Emergency Care

In the event of a medical emergency, dial 000 for immediate assistance from emergency services (ambulance, police, fire). Hospital emergency departments provide 24/7 emergency care for serious medical conditions or injuries.  

Healthcare Rights and Responsibilities

Familiarise yourself with your rights as a patient, including the right to privacy, informed consent, and access to medical records. Understand your responsibilities, such as providing accurate information about your medical history and complying with treatment plans.  

Language and Cultural Considerations

As an international student, if English is not your first language and cannot communicate in English effectively, you can look for healthcare providers with interpreter services or language support. Be aware of cultural differences and express any preferences or concerns regarding your care promptly.  

Conclusion

Understanding the Australian healthcare system and how to access medical services is crucial to ensure you, as an international student, receive timely and appropriate medical care during your time in Australia. Familiarise yourself with the above mentioned insurance plans and key points to consider so your study in Australia goes without a hitch.
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