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International students: What do I do if I’m taken to hospital?

What would happen if you required emergency treatment?

A young man sits on the floor of his living room in front of his laptop as he talks on the phone
A young man sits on the floor of his living room in front of his laptop as he talks on the phone

Living in Australia as an international student comes with its challenges. Not only do you need to manage exams, essays and group assignments, but you’re likely on a budget, trying to make the most of living in a foreign country and constantly Googling Australian slang (who would’ve thought it would make sense to describe a messy room as a ‘dog’s breakfast’?)

But, have you ever wondered what would happen if you should require emergency treatment or you unexpectedly need to visit a hospital in Australia? What do you do? Who should you contact? And, importantly, will you be left with a huge medical bill?

When it comes to looking after your health, as an nib international member you can rest assured, we’ll have your back. To help guide you through what to do if you need to visit a hospital, we’ve put together this easy-to-understand article that answers all your biggest questions.

1. Should I call an ambulance?

First things first; if there’s a medical emergency, it’s essential that you call triple zero (000). This number is free of charge to call and will put you in touch with qualified emergency services operators who can send for an ambulance.

You should call an emergency ambulance if someone is seriously injured or in need of urgent medical help. Most of our health insurance covers include unlimited emergency ambulance cover, which means you can rest assured you won’t have to pay a cent if you require a trip in an emergency ambulance. To learn more, visit Ambulance cover.

In most cases, you won’t receive a bill for your ambulance trip, as we’ll take care of it for you. However, if you do receive a bill in the mail following your ambulance trip, simply submit it as a claim through your nib app.

Related: Emergency ambulance claiming

A young woman studies her phone as she sits in a chair with her laptop

2. What if it’s not an emergency?

If you require medical attention, but it’s not an emergency, you can use the nib Symptom Checker*. It’s free to members on the nib App. It's an AI-powered medical platform built by medical doctors and validated by thousands of hours of medical review and test cases. 

When you feel unwell, you can input your symptoms and complete a free, fast, confidential health check in minutes. Based on your responses, we’ll provide recommendations on whether you can self-care at home, should book an appointment with a GP via telehealth or in person, or go to the emergency department for urgent care. 

The tool is now available in both English and simplified Chinese for nib International Visitors members.

3. What do I need to take with me?

If you’re taken to hospital in an emergency ambulance, you’re probably not going to have a chance to pack much. When you’re in the ambulance, the medical team might ask for your private health insurance details – but as long as you have your smartphone with your nib app on it, you’ll be able to access everything you need when it comes to your member number and policy details.

If you have time to plan your hospital visit, make sure you pack an overnight bag that includes fresh clothing and underwear, as well as a few ‘luxuries’ to make your stay that much more comfortable. For a comprehensive list, check out our article, Here’s what to pack in your hospital overnight bag.

4. Public vs private emergency department?

As an nib member, you’ll be covered regardless of whether you attend a public or a private emergency department, but there are pros and cons for each.

If you choose a public emergency department, you won’t be charged any out of pocket expenses and you’ll likely have access to a wider range of specialists and equipment. However, it’s likely you’ll experience longer waiting times.

Opting for a private emergency department could mean you’re seen quicker and you’ll also have the option of choosing your own specialist team, however, you’ll likely be charged a facility fee.

5. How do I make a claim?

The most important thing to remember is that if you hold Overseas Student Health Cover with nib and you visit an emergency department in a public hospital, you should not have any out-of-pocket costs from the hospital. This means you shouldn’t need to pay a cent upfront for your treatment. The hospital will complete an eligibility check with us, which will confirm your hospital benefits. From there, the hospital can deal directly with one of nib’s consultants to settle your bill – so you can simply focus on getting back to health.

If you have any questions about using your nib cover in a hospital, you can speak to one of nib’s caring customer service consultants via phone or chat.

*nib Symptom Checker does not provide a medical diagnosis and should not replace the judgment of a registered healthcare practitioner. It offers information to assist you in decision making based on readily available information about symptoms. If you have questions or concerns about the results from nib Symptom Checker, please consult your registered healthcare practitioner.