RLC in the Media: Lax or Luxe? The health service barriers faced by international students

International students encounter many challenges when accessing basic services.

Annoitte Radford reports for Honi Soit

Studying at an international institution is the opportunity of a lifetime for some. For others, it can open up a complicated world of health issues, insurance claims and exploitation.

‘Overseas Student Health Cover’, the basic international student insurance cover, insures students for some out-of-hospital medical services (as listed in the Medicare benefits schedule), in-hospital medical services, public hospital treatments and ambulance services.

A lack of clear knowledge and understanding of the services available to students, however, makes it difficult for them to seek help.

“We found that there was very little information to assist international students. There was lots of information, but it was through different sources and also very rarely was it presented in a community language,” said Sean Stimson, the head of Redfern Legal Centre’s International Student Service.

Research conducted by the Centre found that many international students are not properly utilising their health insurance due to gap payments that cost large sums of money. As these payments can amount to a significant portion of a student’s fortnightly income, many students refrain from seeking treatment to avoid expenses.

Mr Stimson highlights that for many students, the choice comes down basic human needs like eating, versus expensive medical treatment.

One of the key reasons the gap payment becomes so unaffordable for students is due restrictions imposed on international students through the 40-hour working fortnight. A condition of the 8105 student visa is that students are limited to working a maximum of twenty hours a week, and forty hours a fortnight.

On minimum wage, this amount to approximately $757.20 a fortnight. For international students with various bills and costs to pay, this income is unsustainable. Instead, working more hours at below minimum wage becomes a valid option.

Released by the Government in March of this year, the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce outlined the potential for student visa holders to be exploited by employers.

This often leads to mental health issues among the community

When students then cannot access counsellors or support services, staying at University in a foreign country becomes almost impossible and health issues develop into severe and often debilitating illnesses. While organisations such as Beyond Blue provide free mental health services, many international students do not know these services exist nor how to access them.

Though the lives of international students are often perceived as extravagant and luxurious, many are exempt from a basic necessity: healthcare.

Read the full article here (Honi Soit, 29 September 2019)