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SEXtember: Overseas Student Health Cover & sexual health

Diane Leow

Mon Oct 01 2012


DID you know insurance providers won’t cover any pregnancy-related costs for first-year international students? Healthcare workers are up in arms but a student body representative thinks it’s a good idea. Diane Leow and Olivia Merlen report on this – and what you can get out of your policy.

Health care workers have criticised Australian insurance providers for not covering any pregnancy-related costs for first-year international students.

All Overseas Student Health Care providers  have imposed a 12-month waiting period for certain policies, including those to do with pregnancy-related conditions, since September 2011.

This has meant that for the first 12 months of a student’s stay in Australia, insurance companies will not cover the cost of any pregnancy-related conditions for students with standard insurance coverage.

The Multicultural Women’s Health Centre’s Carolyn Poljski has called this a “breach of women’s rights”.

“Students have to wait 12 months…for newly arrived students, this is a real problem,” she said.

The Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health’s research and executive assistant, Jasmine Chen has also expressed her concern.

“It is a problem because unplanned pregnancies often seem to happen in the first 12 months,” she said.

But Melbourne University Overseas Students Society’s vice-president of Education and Welfare, Zong Yuan Chuah, thinks restricting access to health insurance may be a good idea.

“Maybe this will benefit international students as a form of discouragement to be less sexually active in their first twelve months of arriving and be more focused on their studies,” he said.

Students with access to premium insurance coverage such as the OSHC Worldcare Essentials Cover have, however, been able to bypass the waiting period for pregnancy-related conditions.

OSHC providers contacted did not respond in time for publication.

So what services are available?

OSHC providers consider abortion to be a pregnancy-related condition and this may be subject to the twelve-month waiting rule, depending on one’s policy.

The extent of coverage for abortions also vary according to the type of procedure administered.

Surgical abortions require the use of anaesthesia, an operating theatre and more, while medical abortions only involve the administering of a drug.

For help with pregnancy or STI-related queries, insurance providers have the following services available:

  • If you are an OSHC policy holder with Medibank, they recommend the “Symptom Checker” iPhone app. You don’t need to speak with a doctor or nurse if you are experiencing discomfort or suspect you may have contracted a STI. Medibank Private also has a service called MiHealth that offers a 24-hour hotline. With MiHealth, you can speak to a nurse about any medical concerns you may have, big or small at 1800 644 325.
  • OSHC Worldcare offers a 24-hour helpline that is not limited to medical advice. If you are in trouble, need immediate medical assistance, or just want to ask a health professional a question, dial 1800 814 781. For information on claims, especially if you need clarification on what is covered with your OSHC policy,  call 1800 651 349. To find a doctor, more information is available here.
  • Bupa Australia is contactable at 1800 888 942 . A list of their frequently asked questions can be found here.
  • With Australian Health Management (AHM) OSHC, you can access a 24-hour emergency hotline, stress and trauma counselling services, and more. More information can be found here.
  • If you hold a nib OSHC policy, they encourage their clients to call 1800 775 204 (this line is open Mon-Fri 8am-8.30pm and Sat 8am-1pm) or visit their website to ensure the provider is recognised by nib and that you are entitled to receive a benefit when making a claim.

This article is part of our SEXtember campaign to raise awareness about sexual health. For more information on where to seek help, check out our guide and other articles.