Here are some of the most important things to know about healthcare in New Zealand.
Vital information about the health system
1) How do I pay for my healthcare in New Zealand?
New Zealand’s healthcare system is funded mainly through general taxation. Treatments are usually free or subsidised. Medical treatment is generally very good. Private healthcare is also available.
2) Will I be eligible for publicly funded healthcare?
Yes, provided you are a New Zealand Citizen or you are ordinarily resident in New Zealand.
3) How do I become ordinarily resident?
You need to be a permanent resident or a work-permit holder. The work-permit must be for a minimum of two years at time of issue. If you meet the criteria, your partner and children aged 19 years or under will also be eligible for publicly funded healthcare.
4) When is publicly funded healthcare free?
Public healthcare is free for:
• hospital treatment including 24-hour accident and emergency (A&E) clinics. There are some exceptions, such as for cosmetic surgery.
• children’s immunisations.
• prescription medicine for children under six.
• people with a prescription subsidy card and a high use health card or community services card.
• prescription medicines for all public hospital patients.
• healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth. This covers everything from the diagnosis of pregnancy to pre- and post-natal care for mother and baby. There is no charge for hospital stays.
• general practitioner (GP) referrals to a public hospital for treatment.
• check-ups and basic dental treatment for schoolchildren.
• breast-screening for women aged 50 to 64.
• acute or chronic medical conditions. (In some circumstances a financial contribution may be needed.)
5) What healthcare is subsidised but not free?
• Prescription items.
• Visits to general practitioners.
• Visits to physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths when referred by a GP.
• Most laboratory tests and x-rays.
• Ambulance services.
6) How big a financial contribution towards medical costs will I have to make?
• A visit to your GP in 2019 costs about $85 between around 8:00am – 6:00pm. Visits at weekends or nights cost more. If, however, you join a PHO (Primary Health Organisation – these are government funded and free to join) a visit to your GP will cost approximately $40 – $50. Nearly all New Zealanders have now joined PHOs. It can sometimes take about three months after submitting an application to a PHO to receive lower priced care. It’s advisable therefore to join a medical practice and enrol with a PHO sooner rather than later.
• Many GP’s waive the fee entirely for children under six.
• If your GP prescribes medicines for you, you will pay $5 per item provided you have joined a PHO. Otherwise, you will pay more.
• if you have joined a PHO, you can get a Prescription Subsidy Card once your have paid for 20 new prescription medicine items from 1 February each year. This entitlies you and your family (partner and any children under 18) to free government funded prescriptions for the rest of the year.
• If the prescription is for a non-subsidised medicine, you will pay more for it. Non-subsidised items such as Xenical are available at full cost.
• X-rays cost from $45. A small charge is payable for most laboratory tests carried out by your GP.
• Ambulance services may cost $98
7) How do I register with a GP?
Bring along your passport and permit. You can join whichever practice you like.
8) How long do I need to wait for treatment?
GP’s will usually see you on the day you make an appointment. The government does not fund the public health system generously enough to allow most hospital treatments, other than accident/emergency care, to be carried out immediately. Waiting times for surgery vary from hospital to hospital.
9) What if I need specialist care?
You need your GP to refer you to a specialist. Specialist care is free. Waiting times vary according to region, urgency and type of treatment involved. If you prefer not to wait and opt for a private specialist, you, or your medical insurance, will be required to cover all fees.
10) What role does private healthcare play in New Zealand?
• One-third of New Zealanders are covered by private health insurance. This allows them to bypass the waiting times in the public health system for treatment of non-urgent conditions.
• People who are covered by private health insurance are also entitled to free public health services.
• One-half of all elective surgery in New Zealand is performed privately.
• About one-third of people who have elective surgery are not covered by private insurance, and have to fund the procedures themselves.
• The table below shows typical costs for some of these elective procedures in New Zealand.
Typical costs of Private Procedures in New Zealand are:
|Procedure||Cost NZ$ in 2019|
|Prostate cancer – Brachytherapy||16,000 – 24,000|
|Heart valve replacement surgery||58,000 – 78,000|
|Hernia repair||4,000 – 12,000|
|Cataract removal (eye surgery)||3,000 – 5,000|
|Gall bladder surgery||6,000 – 11,000|
|Total hysterectomy (surgery)||7,000 – 15,000|
|Hip or Knee replacement||20,000 – 30,000|
|Skin cancer removal||200 – 2,500|
|Colonoscopy||1,700 – 3,000|
|Varicose veins||7,000 – 10,000|
|Tonsillectomy||4,000 – 6,000|
|Breast cancer surgery||6,500 – 18,000|
11) Who can I sue if I am injured?
You cannot sue anyone for compensation. The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) helps to pay for the cost of your care. Injuries from work, home and sports or other leisure activities are covered.
ACC claims may also be made for personal injury caused by a medical mistake or error, sexual assault or abuse, and some work-related conditions.
12) What is the ACC’s role in New Zealand?
The ACC subsidises treatment of accident-related injuries. The patient usually pays a part-charge for the treatment.
If your injury stops you from working, ACC pays compensation, usually based on 80% of your weekly income before tax. It can also help with residential nursing care, home help and childcare, as well as subsidising transport and training costs while you recover.
In some cases involving permanent physical impairment, compensation, or ‘lump sum’, financial payments are also made.
Last Updated: September 2019
References and Further Reading
Primary Health Organisations
Disclaimer: All information is offered in good faith and is believed to be accurate at the time of writing. No liability is accepted. Anyone needing medical advice should refer to an appropriately qualified member of the medical profession.