Some countries have arrangements with the Australian government to provide health care to their citizens while they are in Australia. These include Reciprocal Health Care Agreements and a temporary Medicare Card.

Countries that are covered by Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) include:

If you are from one of the above countries, once you arrive in Australia you will need to enrol with Medicare. To do this you will need to visit a Medicare office with:

  • a current passport and
  • valid visas for all applicants

Medicare may also ask for further documents if required.

Once your application is approved you will receive an Australian Medicare reciprocal health care card in the mail. You will then have access to Medicare and the diabetes products and services offered by the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS)


Medicare is Australia’s universal health scheme. It is operated by the government and provides all eligible citizens (and some overseas visitors) with access to a wide range of health services at little or no cost.

Medicare often  meets the costs of:

National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS)  

The National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) is an initiative of the Australian Government which enables people living with diabetes to obtain a range of diabetes products at a reduced cost. This includes needles, syringes, blood glucose test strips, urine test strips and insulin pump consumables.

If you are visiting from a country covered by Australia’s Reciprocal Health Care Agreement you may be able to register with the NDSS.

Visitors on a student visas from certain countries may not be eligible.

What you need to bring with you to Australia

Medical letter

Before travelling to Australia ask your doctor or endocrinologist (diabetologist) for a medical summary of your diabetes management and care plan. This letter will give your new health professionals in Australia a history of your diabetes management.

This letter needs to include:

  • the type of diabetes
  • the number of years since diagnosis
  • a list of the current medicines you are taking
  • your latest HbA1cs; and
  • any other medical treatments

Bring this letter with you to Australia.

Diabetes equipment and supplies

Check how much insulin, medicines and diabetes equipment you can bring into Australia. Usually you can only bring in 3 months supplies of medicines (including insulin) and they must be declared when you arrive into Australia.

Visit the Department of Home Affairs website for more information on bringing medicines into Australia.

Coming to Australia to live or study

If you come to Australia to live or study, you may be able to have a temporary Medicare card for the time you are here. Check the Medicare website.

Your access to low cost healthcare and medical supplies will depend on your country of citizenship and type of visa at the time of entry. You may be able to access:

Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)

Some international students coming to Australia need to take out Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) for their time in this country. You will need to provide proof of cover before your study visa is granted. This insurance needs to cover you and any dependents (for example, spouses and children under 18 years).

In general, Overseas Student Health Cover will cover:

  • visits to the doctor
  • some hospital treatments
  • ambulance cover
  • limited medicines

Any Australian health fund can offer Overseas Student Health Cover policies for overseas students provided it has signed a legal agreement with the Commonwealth in order to provide these services.

Currently five Australian health funds have an agreement with the government to provide OSHC policies for overseas students:

Companies offering these products vary and you will need to check out if they meet your needs.

You can find more information on the Australian Department of Health and the Department of Home Affairs websites, including a list of the providers and companies and average costs.

Private health insurance in Australia

Some international students also choose to take out private health insurance. Costs and benefits vary across insurance companies.

You can use the website to compare private health insurance products currently available in Australia.

Costs of living in Australia as an international student with diabetes

Some international students have financial help from their home country to help with the costs of coming here to study. However many students are often shocked, not prepared, and lack current information about the day-to-day living costs in Australia with a health condition such as diabetes. For example, the full cost of buying a box of 100 blood glucose checking strips can be AU$50 - AU$60. In Australia, you need a prescription written by a doctor to be able to buy insulin at a pharmacy.

If you need help to connect to a diabetes service or any information during your time in Australia, please contact our advocacy team on 1300 136 588 or head to our contact us page.

📅 Page last updated: 23 January 2023