If your working life takes you away from Australia’s shores, expat health insurance is designed to ensure that you and your family won’t be left with significant medical bills if you suffer a serious illness or injury, covering everything from hospital accommodation and treatment fees to medical repatriation to Australia.
Health insurance for expatriates enables you and your family to access a high level of medical care wherever you are in the world. While the standard of healthcare in Australia is quite high, the medical care and treatment on offer internationally can vary greatly from one country to the next.
With this in mind, expat health insurance is essential to ensure that the healthcare needs of you and your family are always looked after.
Although the benefits offered by expat health insurance differ from one policy to the next, comprehensive expat health insurance will usually cover the following medical services.
- Hospital accommodation
- Surgical and theatre fees
- In-hospital medicines
- Nursing care
- Day surgery
- Specialists’ fees
- Pathology, x-rays, diagnostic tests
- Prosthetic implants and appliances
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Ambulance transportation and treatment
- Cancer treatment
- 24/7 emergency medical advice and assistance
- Medical repatriation to Australia
- Physio, chiro, osteo, speech therapy, dietitian, natural therapies
There are two ways that you can access health insurance for expatriates.
- Through your employer, if they offer cover for workers overseas.
- By taking out an international health insurance policy yourself directly from an insurer.
Major global insurers such as Bupa and Allianz both offer international health insurance solutions for individuals and their families, as well as policies designed for businesses to offer to their employees. Health insurance for expats is also available from major insurance providers such as QBE and GU Health, so it is important to shop around and compare your cover options.
If you are heading overseas and have started to compare your insurance options, you might be a little confused as to whether health insurance or travel insurance is right for you. However, there are a couple of key differences that set these two types of cover apart.
- Health insurance for expats. This is designed for Australians who will be spending an extended period of time abroad. With this in mind, expat health insurance includes cover for day-to-day medical expenses like visits to the doctor, x-rays and pathology, as well as maternity care and dental treatment. Policies also include cover for emergency medical expenses and repatriation to Australia.
- Travel insurance. On the other hand, this type of insurance is more suited to cover the needs of Australians taking shorter trips overseas. It typically does not include any cover for everyday healthcare expenses and services such as maternity care. Instead, the medical cover provided by travel insurance is designed to provide protection if you suffer an unexpected medical emergency while overseas. Travel insurance also provides cover for a range of other travel-related risks, including lost luggage, travel delays and cancellation fees.
Australia has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) in place with the governments of 11 countries around the world.
The RHCA allows you to access subsidised healthcare under the public health system in place at that destination; in other words, you’ll be covered by that country’s version of Medicare. Although the medical cover available under an RHCA is certainly beneficial, it has its limits.
- It does not provide cover for a wide range of medical expenses, including ambulance services, dental treatment, elective treatments and treatment in private hospitals.
- It does not cover the cost of medical repatriation to Australia.
This is why you should not think of the RHCA as a replacement for health insurance. Having a policy in place guarantees peace of mind and ensures that you can enjoy comprehensive medical cover around the world.
All Australian health funds allow you to suspend your domestic health insurance policy if you are heading overseas. Your time spent abroad will have to fall within a minimum and maximum trip length threshold for your policy to be eligible for suspension, and these periods vary between providers. Additional rules enforced by health funds can include the following.
- Premium contributions must up to date, and in some cases paid in advance of your date of departure.
- The policyholder must have held cover for a certain period of time, typically 12 months.
- The suspension period does not count towards waiting periods.
- Suspension for overseas travel can only be applied for once a year.
Remember to check your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) or contact your health fund directly if you are planning to suspend cover, as each provider will have their own guidelines.
Minimum and maximum trip length thresholds by the health fund