OSHC and the Australian Health Care System

The Australian healthcare system may be different to that in your home country.

Find out what to do if you get sick. If you live in Adelaide for an extended time, you should know how your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) works with our healthcare system.

It is a condition of your student visa to have Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) insurance for the entire length of your stay. OSHC covers all public hospitals in Adelaide. OSHC can cover many of your medical expenses if you become sick or injured.

You can get OSHC coverage from many different providers. The University's preferred provider is Medibank.

You can speak with staff from Medibank directly on campus at Ask Adelaide from Monday to Friday from 10.00am - 4.00pm.

If you are visiting from Norway, Sweden, or Belgium, special OSHC conditions apply. Please see the Department of Home Affairs for further information.

There are several different ways to access health care and advice within Australia, and these may be quite different from what you do at home. As a starting point, you may wish to watch the Australian Government's great animated video introductions to our health care system.

In general, in Australia you visit hospitals for emergencies only. For all non-emergency medical care, you should first visit a General Practitioner (GP) doctor.

A General Practitioner (GP) doctor is your first contact for all non-emergency health issues.

All GPs are fully trained to treat both immediate and ongoing illnesses and to provide preventative care and health education. They can also provide advice regarding sexual health, drug and alcohol use, diet and weight control, sleep problems and mental health.

If your GP thinks you need treatment from a specialist, they'll give you a 'referral note' to a specialist who will be able to help you.

Finding a GP

GP offices (GP practices) are usually open from 8.30 am - 5.30 pm, Monday to Friday.

There is a GP practice, the University Health Practice, on the University's North Terrace campus. You can book an appointment through the University Health Practice website

Other GP practices near you can be found by using the following:

Tips for seeing a GP

  • It is essential to arrive at your GP appointment at least 5 minutes earlier than the scheduled time and at least 10 minutes earlier if it's your first time seeing a particular GP. 
  • Remember to take your OSHC card to all your appointments.
  • When you make an appointment, it's okay to ask for a female or male doctor if it makes you feel more comfortable.
  • You can take a friend or relative with you when you see the doctor.
  • If you don't feel comfortable with the doctor you see for any reason, you can ask to see a different doctor the next time you make an appointment.
  • If you feel embarrassed about having to talk to your doctor about some problems or symptoms, remember that your doctor has likely heard everything before and is there to help you and not judge you.
  • Take your time during the appointment - once you start talking, it will get easier. It can also help to bring notes to the appointment to remember what you need to ask about.
  • If your doctor says something you do not understand, it's okay to ask for clarification
  • Always tell the truth. If your doctor asks you questions about your lifestyle - for example, about your sex life or whether you have used drugs - it's essential to be honest, as it could affect your health. They won't judge you, and what you tell them is confidential unless they think someone is at risk of serious harm.

If you're feeling sick but it's outside of regular GP hours (i.e. at night or on the weekend), you can access several out-of-hours doctor services.

Health Direct

 Phone: 1800 022 222


  • Speak to a registered nurse about your symptoms
  • You will be advised whether you need to see a GP or go to the Emergency Department
  • Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and a free call

National Home Doctor Service

Phone: 13 SICK / 13 74 25


  • Request an after-hours, bulk billed, doctor home visit
  • If you need to see a doctor out of hours, but it's not an emergency, you can use this service
  • Available weekdays from 6 pm, Saturdays from 12 pm, and all day Sundays and public holidays

You should go to a public hospital Emergency Department if it's an emergency. Most private hospitals do not have Emergency Departments. Emergency Departments are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Call the emergency number 000 for assistance and an ambulance in an emergency medical situation.

Examples of 'emergency medical situations' include: 

  • Heart attack or chest pain
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Burns / broken bones
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Giving birth

Your doctor won't give you medication during your appointment. Instead, they'll give you a prescription, which you'll need to take to a chemist (also called a pharmacy) to buy your medication there. You can also buy non-prescription medicines, such as headache tablets, from a pharmacy.

However, a pharmacy is more than just a place to buy your medication. Pharmacists can:

  • advise you about how medicines should be taken or used most safely and effectively to treat common problems.
  • advise you about both over-the-counter and prescription medicines, including which ones to choose, how they'll help with your condition, how much to take, how they can interact with other medications, and what their side effects are.
  • choose, give advice on and supply non-prescription medicine, sickroom supplies and other products.

If you have a question that does not necessarily require a trip to the doctor, your local pharmacist may be able to help.

Standard OSHC policies do not cover dental services. If you are unsure whether your policy covers dental work, please speak directly with your OSHC provider.

If you need dental work, you must visit a private dentist. Please note that dental appointments in Australia can be expensive and may cost you up to $100 for just an examination. We recommend confirming the price before seeing a dentist.

Your chosen insurance provider can suggest a dentist's office for you to visit.

Children's dental care

South Australia has a government dental service for children under 18 years old. This service is free for kids yet to start school and with a reduced cost for dental services for older children in a calendar year.

For more information, see the Students with Children page.

If you are having trouble communicating with your GP or the hospital, you can use the Australian Government's free Translation and Interpreting Service (TIS). Contacting TIS will connect you with a qualified translator of your language who can interpret on your behalf.

OSHC provides a similar level of coverage as the Australian public health insurance system, Medicare. Visits to GPs are often covered, and if you stay in a public hospital while being treated, you won't be charged any fees.

However, OSHC generally doesn't cover dental or optical consultations or stays in private hospitals. If you use services outside of your OSHC policy, you'll be charged, and there will be only minimal reimbursement.

Before you visit a doctor, you should always confirm if you will need to pay any money for the appointment. Two good questions to ask are:

The gap

Good question #1: "Do you charge a gap fee?"

All medical services have a standard fee set by the Australian government. However, medical providers (GPs, specialist doctors, etc.) can charge whatever they want to. The difference between the standard and medical provider fees is called the gap.

Your OSHC policy will cover the standard fee but not the gap. In other words, you will need to pay the gap yourself. The gap fee for seeing a GP may be anywhere from $10 to $50.

Direct billing

Good question #2: "Do you direct bill to (your OSHC provider)?"

Some doctors send their bills directly to your OSHC provider. This is called direct billing, meaning you don't pay any money yourself (unless there's a gap fee). 

However, some doctors do not directly bill. You must pay the bill yourself and then take the bill to your OSHC provider to claim your money back.

Not all medical services are covered by your OSHC policy. For example, most standard OSHC policies do not cover dental or optical services. Check your policy to see what's covered. If you are not covered by OSHC and see a dentist or optometrist, you will need to pay the entire fee, which may cost several hundred dollars.