Calls for visa requirements to include health insurance

Date: Feb 09, 2012

A leading figure in the healthcare industry has come forward to suggest a change in visa regulations may benefit the medical sector.

The vice-president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Stephen Parnis, has expressed his support for the inclusion of health insurance as a mandatory requirement of migration applications.

Parnis' comments have come off the back of new information provided by the AMA that shows that the number of migrants treated in the state's emergency departments doubled in the six years to the fiscal year 2010-11.

While the reasons for their attendance at hospitals varied, a significant number did not cover the fees that they incurred - giving voice to the fears that a new wave of so-called 'medical tourism' had begun.

To help account for the increased expenses faced by public hospitals, Parnis suggested that visa requirements be extended to include mandatory health insurance.

"If people have the means to come to Australia on an international holiday they should have the means to make allowance for their own healthcare," the vice-president told News Limited on February 9.

There are already a number of visas issued by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) that require health insurance policies to be purchased, including those for international students and their partners and dependents.

Visitors from countries such as the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and Italy can be exempt from this requirement, as they can be covered by Reciprocal Health Care Agreements.

These allow for limited subsidised healthcare services to be provided for what the DIAC describes as being "medically necessary treatments for ill-health or injury" whilst in Australia - however these benefits do not extend to elective procedures.

For businesses that sponsor skilled migrant workers to live in Australia - perhaps using the 457 subclass of visa - the same conditions of travel apply, in that they and their family need to have health insurance for the entire time that they are in the country.

This means that in cases where individuals have travelled to Australia for the explicit purpose of receiving a medical procedure, they will still need to pay the full cost for the care provided, or have it covered by their insurance provider.

A migration lawyer is able to provide accurate information on the legal requirements attached to each visa subclass before a journey is made - helping to ensure that a submission to the DIAC has the best possible chance of success.