Confused about the healthcare system in Australia? Should you have private health insurance? Are you eligible for Medicare? This article is about OVHC, OSHC and Medicare explained.


Medicare which is the national publicly funded medical insurance service in Australia covering basic treatment for citizens and residents of the country. Visitors on a working visa are only eligible to access Medicare if they are citizens of a country that Australia has an reciprocal healthcare agreement with. People who spent time and paid taxes in these countries are eligible for the same benefits. After the approval you can chose it rather than OVHC, however if you earn over $80K the government will penalise you, as a result of using the public health care system despite needing it. This is a tax called Medicare levy and it’s deducted from your return in the end of the tax year.
As a working resident 2% is automatically taken out of your wage for Medicare, however if you are not eligible you can apply for exception.

How to enrol?

To enrol you need walk in to any Medicare Service Centre and submit your application (You don’t need to make an appointment). You need to bring the following with you;

  • completed Medicare enrolment form
  • One for of identification (passport, birth certificate, visa)
  • At least 2 documents proving that you live in Australia

You will receive your Medicare number straight away, and they will send the Medicare card by post in 3-4 weeks.
Finally, When you visit the doctor you need to present your Medicare card. You can either pay for the services and claim it back, or go to a practice that does ‘bulk billing’ which means that the practice bills Medicare directly so you don’t have to pay anything.


The basic plan covers the following;

  • Hospital care (rooms, meals, general nursing and other hospital services and supplies
  • Skilled nursing facility care
  • Nursing home care
  • Hospice
  • Home health services
  • Medically necessary services: anything needed to diagnose or treat your medical condition
  • Preventative services: anything to prevent illness (e.g. flu jabs) or to detect it at an early stage

You can also upgrade to an advanced plan which covers more. Read more about Medicare coverage here.

Private health insurance (OVHC, OSHC)

Most temporary visas require you to take out a private health insurance in Australia before you start your application. You need to make sure that get the health cover specifically for your visa; OVHC (Overseas Visitor Health Cover) for workers or OSHC (Overseas Student Health Cover) for students.

There is a range of options including basic and advanced plans and the coverage depends on individual policies.

Private insurance holders are eligible for a rebate, which is an amount that the government contributes towards the costs of the insurance premiums. The percentage changes every year and depends on the level of your income. The tax office decides on the amount in the end of the tax year.

So what should you choose?

The conclusion is if your income is under $80K you are eligible, and you are happy with basic cover, then choose Medicare rather than private insurance.
If your income is over $80K and you are not eligible, then get a private insurance and apply for exemption for paying the Medicare contribution.
Finally, if your income is over $80K and you are eligible, you are still probably better off with private insurance.

Read more about Insurance in Australia.

Orsi – moving countries 5 times Orsi is now an expert on how to settle into a new place. Now she is based in Sydney blogging about life down under.

LIVING GUIDE FOR SYDNEY |The e-book expats wish existed when they moved

  • How to get a visa to Australia?
  • Where to live in Sydney?
  • What documents do I need for renting?
  • How much tax do I pay in Australia?
  • How to get around?
  • What insurance do I need?
  • Where are the best spots for dinner?
  • What shops and supermarkets are there?
  • How to apply for university?
  • How to find schools and nurseries?