Calls for all Australian visa applicants to have health insurance

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is requesting that health insurance become mandatory for all Australian visa applicants. The request was made by vice president of the Victorian branch of the AMA, Stephen Parnis, following recent figures released by the AMA that shows the number of immigrants treated in the Victoria's public hospitals have tripled in the last six years.

The report stated that from 30 June 2010 to 30 June 2011, there were over 30,000 patients treated at Victorian hospitals who were not Australian citizens. Parnis' fear is that the increase may be due to growth in "medical tourism" wherein individuals travel to a foreign country for a medical procedure. The concern is that as not all Australian visa applicants are required to have medical insurance, some patients may leave the country without paying their bills.

Currently, individuals on student visas and skilled workers and their dependents on 457 subclass visas are required to have health insurance as part of their entry conditions. It is not a requirement for Australian tourist visa applicants to have proof of health insurance. However, forcing visit visa holders to have medical insurance may put off people from visiting Australia and have a detrimental effect on the tourist industry.

Parnis' says that requiring health insurance for all visa categories would be a positive step for the medical industry.

"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," said Parnis.

Australia has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with several countries including the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Italy, wherein citizens of these countries can access medical care in Australia in the same way as permanent residents. Although it is important to note, according to the report, most international patients seeking medical care in Australia were not from countries that fall under this agreement.

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