Health Care in New Zealand

by Jose Marc Castro on August 8, 2009

healthcareCANADAWhen it comes to finding a country to relocate, one of the most preferred nations is New Zealand. The nation is known for its very low crime rate, stunning locations, and very high standards of living. These are enough reasons why thousands of would-be expatriates love to stay in New Zealand but it is still important to know about the health care system of this country. New Zealand is one country located on the southwestern part of the Pacific Ocean. The country is composed of two large islands, namely the South Island and the North Island, and a hundred of other smaller islands, the most notable of which the Chatham Islands and the Stewart Island.

New Zealand is prominent because of its geographical location. The Tasman Sea has separated this nation from Australia, about two thousand kilometers away. New Zealand is one nation that is immensely appealing to thousands of would-be expatriates primarily because of its low crime rate, beautiful sceneries, and high standards of living.

Learning the Basics of Health Care in New Zealand

Before you finally decide to immigrate to New Zealand, it is important that you fully understand the health care system of this country since it greatly varies from the European and American medical systems, or the British national health systems either. It is essential that you know what you will be paying for, the levels of health care to expect, and where to find the medical specialists in New Zealand.

The first few things that you should be aware of is that certain degrees of care is being offered free under the public healthcare scheme in New Zealand, to its residents and to those with working permits that allow them to temporarily reside in New Zealand. In New Zealand, the hospitals are publicly run and these offices treat citizens or permanent residents free of charge and are managed by District Health Boards. The current system subsidizes in health care and this system is funded by taxes. These services include free prescriptions and treatments at public hospitals, free x-rays and laboratory tests when carried out from public hospitals or clinics, free service charges for pregnant women, free dental care for children at school age, and free breast screenings for women aging fifty above.

The other free services offered are subsidized general practitioner general practitioner referral visits, free treatments for patients suffering with chronic conditions, and subsidized prescriptions for children six years old below.

Over and above these things, it may be worth your consideration to pay every time you visit your general practitioner. Additionally, if you are truly attracted of the thought of living in New Zealand; way too attracted that you end up wanting to be away from the city life and live in the rural areas instead; be aware that healthcare services from these areas are limited. With that, you should be ware of the fact that you will be driving for quite some distance to seek for basic medical assistance. Since most of the specialists in health care are located in large towns and cities in New Zealand, living in rural areas is not quite a good idea not unless you have the patience to drive to and from your GP just to seek for medical assistance.

Aside from paying for your visits to your general practitioner, be aware that you will have to pay for the prescriptions and dental care. These are really very expensive, so much that just for the dental bills alone, hundreds of expatriates who ended up investing for a real estate property in New Zealand and permanently relocating there, realize that some levels of those international health insurance actually makes sense a lot for them. This ensures that they are generally covered in medical expenses in the event of unexpected emergencies, or that their daily medical needs are met, or they are aware of what they will have to pay on their claims.

Even with these seeming problems, the quality of health care provided at all levels in the New Zealand system is comparable to many Western European health systems.

Main Health Care Insurers in New Zealand

Some of the more prominent main insurers found in New Zealand are Southern Cross Healthcare, Sovereign, and UniMed. Although these are insurers designed for expatriates, you can still use Good Health, an international provider for health care.

Hospitals in New Zealand

Since there is a notable increase of expatriates in New Zealand, the national government has made it a point to provide the emigrants with quality health services by providing hospitals with the highest standards. New Zealand has both private and government hospitals, and a number of specialist clinics located on some part of the country. Their hospitals have the latest equipments in the medical industry, and their medical practitioners underwent schooling and trainings from top of the line medical schools of the world.

An expat shared their budget when they visited New Zealand in New Zealand Expat Forum last July 10, 2009:

I went to NZ last year for a holiday/reccy. I have also done a lot of research. As for costs, you need to provision for these kind of figures: –

– Medicals £760 family of 2 adults to 2 young children

– EOI £155

– Application for residence £650

– Migrant levy £685 (family of 4 again)

– Container £3500

– One way flights £2100 from UK that is

At least that gives you a feel for the costs involved. I found an excellent website for cost of living comparisons for NZ, it is: –

Cost of living in New Zealand

Medicines in New Zealand

The price of medication in New Zealand is notably more expensive compared with the medicines sold from other nations. This is addressed with the right health care system and health care insurer. Thus, buying expensive medicines should not be that big a concern for you.


New Zealand has a number of standby ambulances prepared and properly equipped for emergency situations. In some instances, airlift emergency services are also available should the need arise. Their hospitals as well, both the private and the public medical facilities, are fully equipped with the best first aid tools.


Pharmacies from New Zealand are staffed with professionals who have practiced their profession as pharmacists for some time. New Zealand is also strict when it comes to giving medicines that are not duly prescribed by the doctors.

Costs of Hospitalization

Because New Zealand has the best hospitals fully equipped with the latest in medical technology, expect the cost of hospitalization to be relatively expensive, especially on those private medical facilities. With this, expatriates are advised to obtain international health care providers so that any forms of hospitalization will be properly taken cared of. This was lamented in New Zealand Expat Forum last June 5,2009:

You will pay for every visit to the Doctor, it ranges between $40 & $60 per visit, depending on which Doctor you get. That’s if you can get a Dr., to regsiter with, as there is a definite shortage. The health system is like it was in the UK about 30 years ago, it SUCKS! If you are on expensive medication they have to apply for a special number from the government so you can get the medication and if they say no, then you either can’t have it, or you will need to pay full price for it.

Today, seeing expatriates in New Zealand is very common. This only goes to show that they are truly satisfied with their stay in this highly urbanized nation. And because of the fact that the place has very low crime rates, more and more people are bent on investing in New Zealand.

If one day you think living in New Zealand is good for you, just make sure that you have fully understood how the health care system of this country works. That way, you will not have to worry about anything once you are already in New Zealand.

One of the standards in New Zealand medical care is the referral system. This means for ordinary check ups or transfers, there need be a referral notice provided by the medical specialist before members of the public would be examined in hospitals. The only exception to this is in cases of accidents and emergencies. This ensures the continuity and consistency in the medical care over the patient even with changes of attending physicians.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

shaneel May 23, 2010 at 12:38 pm

my friends mum got her operation done for gall bladder stones in fiji,in the course of the operation the doctors cut a nerve and she had sever internal bleeding for a week and has water in her stomach,the doctors in fiji say she has a 50/50 chance please advice me what my friend can do he has a nz recidency but his parents dont ,how can he assist his mother who is in critical stage


graeme May 24, 2010 at 5:21 am

well sure sounds like paradise nz ,but like all countrys it is not as great as it sounds ,free health care ,no ,u visit doctor and costs usually $35 dollars prescription usually $3 per item and charge by pharmacy of $4 public hospital have huge waiting lists ,i recently had a hernia operation ,my doctor told me i was wasteing my time going to public hospital as i never get the operation ,i had to go private cost @$6750 nz dollars of which 12.5%is tax payable to nz gov't .dental treatment is free to kids up to 16 years but many cant afford dental treatment after this age ,dentists charge approx $150 per filling and to have a tooth capped approx $1200 dollars .education is said to be free ,joke ,costs me approx $1000 a year school fees for 2 kids and uniforms plus books .also additional costs for courses outside normal school lessons .nz is a great country to live if u have a well paid job and savings ,but house prices are approx $500 ,000in auckland while the average wage is say $60000, other citys have less expensive houses


Wayne Kerr December 28, 2012 at 10:39 am



mark pashby January 20, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Hi me and my partner are moving to nz in march my partner is 6 weeks pregnant we are not resedents there does it cost money to have a baby and would it be better for us to get health care so it doesnt end up cosyting us a fortune . mark


DHMAC March 29, 2013 at 2:24 pm

My adult child is going to be in New Zealand for 4-6 wks for a rugby camp. He has USA Private Health Insurance that will cover emergencies, altho' there will be a delay in payment that we may have to cover. Does anyone know if there are short term policies for these kinds of situations where accidents and injuries do happen? It sounds like "emergencies" are covered by NZ's health system for visitors . . . dhmac


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