Employers in the IT sector are being warned of exorbitant medical costs for uninsured employees working on 457 visas following confirmation last week the government plans to streamline the application process.
According to Medibank Private thousands of 457 visa holders are uninsured, despite immigration regulations specifying that sponsoring employers are responsible for the cost of medical treatment and repatriation (if required) for the visa holder and any dependents.
The IT industry employs more 457 visa holders than any other industry, and while it may seem to carry a lower risk compared to jobs in mining and manufacturing, even the simplest of medical treatments can end up costing the employer thousands of dollars, according to the health insurer.
Medibank Private's industry affairs manager, Craig Bosworth, said when international visitors go to a public hospital in Australia the costs, which the employer is responsible for paying, are not capped as they are for patients under the Medicare system.
"Hospitals can charge whatever they want as there is no schedule of fees for treatment of non-residents," he said.
"Employers don't have to be in a high risk industry to be affected. As an example, if an employee's son or daughter falls off their bike and breaks a leg the sponsoring company could be up for anything in excess of $10,000."
In most cases, Bosworth said it doesn't involve workplace accidents or major health issues.
"We're talking about injuries and hospitalisation as a result of everyday accidents and common health complaints," he said.
"We recently paid a claim of over $23,000 for a 457 visa holder. Employers need to ask themselves if this is a cost their business can afford.
"In contrast, private health insurance for a single employee is around $2,000 per year. This gives you comprehensive cover that eliminates risk for employers."
About 60 per cent of 457 visa holders use local hospital services, according to the Department of Health.
Medibank Private's data shows that on average a hospital visit by a 457 visa holder costs over $2000 in hospital fees alone.
Last week the federal government confirmed it is undertaking a review of Australia's immigration programs to address a local skills crisis.
Programs under review include 457 visas which are issued to overseas workers temporarily sponsored by employers to work in Australia.
The review is being undertaken by a Ministerial advisory panel and changes include allowing employers to speed up the visa process to beef up the availability of professionals such as engineers and IT workers.
Australia's business community has been actively seeking a rise in the number of temporary visas issued to workers, particularly in Western Australia where mining companies claim the annual intake desperately needs to increase.