What health insurance waiting periods could mean for you

If you are an international student coming to study in Australia, you’ll probably find that one of the conditions of your Student Visa is that you may need to take out a private health insurance policy. Many international students are unsure about the waiting periods that apply to their policies – here we clarify what private health insurance waiting periods are, why they exist, and what they might mean for you.

What waiting periods? Why do they apply?

Private health insurance may be essential for you when you’re visiting Australia as it could help to cover the cost of any medical or hospital treatment you might need while you’re here. However, newcomers to Australia may not necessarily be able to claim for treatment straight away – you might have to serve a waiting period on your health insurance policy before making any claims.Waiting periods differ depending on your product and health insurer. Longer waiting periods of 12 months usually apply for pregnancy care or if you need hospital treatment as the result of a pre-existing condition. Make sure you check your specific policy for waiting period details so you don’t get any surprises.

The reason waiting periods apply is to protect other health care fund members. Without waiting periods, people could take out a policy because they know they need medical treatment, make large claims and then cancel the policy. This would result in higher premiums for everyone else – waiting periods ensure private health insurance remains affordable for all members.

Waiting periods in relation to pre-existing conditions

A 12-month waiting period usually applies for hospital treatment you need as the result of a pre-existing condition.

A pre-existing condition doesn’t have to be a medical condition you have known about before coming to Australia. If you have shown signs or symptoms of an illness at any time during the six months prior to taking out your health insurance policy, the condition can be described as pre-existing, even if it has not been diagnosed.

A medical practitioner appointed by your health insurance company will decide whether or not a condition you have can be classed as pre-existing. To do this, they may need to take into account any information supplied to them by your own doctor.

If it is decided that a condition you are suffering from is pre-existing, you might need to wait 12 months before claiming for any medical treatment you could need as a result of that condition.

What waiting periods mean for international students

Before you come to study in Australia, it’s essential to be aware of the private health insurance waiting periods that could apply to your health insurance policy so you are fully prepared and understand what you will and won’t be able to claim for if you need medical treatment while you’re here.

At Bupa, waiting periods start on the date that you enter Australia or the date that you start your membership, whichever is later.

Because of this, if you fall ill while travelling to Australia, this illness is likely to be classed as a pre-existing condition. It might not be covered by your policy, even if you have taken your health insurance out well in advance of your arrival. Medical treatments you have arranged before coming to Australia might not be covered either.

Private health cover may be essential as it’s there to protect you for the duration of your studies in Australia. Hopefully, you won’t need any medical treatment while you’re in Australia, but in case you do, it’s important to know all the facts about your health cover and possible waiting periods so you can be prepared.