10 February 2012

Leading doctor calls for medical insurance requirement on Australian visa applications

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The vice president of the Victoria branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has called for medical insurance to be a requirement on all Australian visa applications.

Australian visa

Dr Parnis is worried that tourists could enter Australia for the purposes of an elective surgical procedure and leave without paying.

Dr Stephen Parnis claims that if tourists can afford an Australian holiday, then measures should be taken to ensure they do not abuse the rights their Australian visa affords.

"If people have the means to come to Australia on an international holiday, they should have the means to make allowances for their own healthcare," said Dr Parnis.

Dr Parnis's comments come after information released by the AMA showed that 30,000 non-Australian citizens were treated at hospitals in the state of Victoria during the 2010/11 financial year.

Health insurance is a requirement for student visas, as well as skilled migrant workers and their families who move to Australia on a 457 visa but it is not currently a requirement for tourist visas.

Dr Parnis fears that this could lead to 'medical-tourism' - when people enter Australia with the specific intention of undergoing a, typically elective, medical procedure and leaving before paying their bills.

Tourists from several countries including the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Italy are permitted access to the same healthcare facilities as permanent residents due to Reciprocal Health Care Agreements Australia has signed with those countries.

However, the most common countries for non-Australian patients in Victorian hospitals were India, China, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian High Commission.

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