Healthcare in New Zealand
If you’re drawing up plans to live on one of New Zealand’s 600 islands, you’re probably daydreaming about the gorgeous landscapes, wildlife, and animals you’ll get to see – not to mention the stunning weather.
But healthcare is a crucial part of living anywhere, and fortunately you’ll be in safe hands after moving to New Zealand.
The Antipodean country has a higher life expectancy than the UK (United Nations, 2020), more doctors per 10,000 people (World Health Organisation, 2021), and declared itself coronavirus-free on 8 June 2021.
This impressive achievement was pulled off by the country’s universal healthcare system – but it doesn’t cover all eventualities. If you’ve decided to join the 1.75 million Kiwis who have private health insurance, we recommend Cigna.
The company helps more than 95 million customers all over the world, and they have the know-how to get you the right cover too. Start building a customised plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.
New Zealand healthcare: key stats
- 0%of New Zealanders have private health insurance
- 0average life expectancy
- 0doctors per 10,000 people
How does healthcare work in New Zealand?
The country’s universal system covers all New Zealand residents, visiting Brits and Australians, and some work visa holders.
Services are mostly funded by the government, through many different taxes.
The government hands these funds to 20 district health boards (DHBs) located across the sunny island nation, which are responsible for providing health services to the people in their area.
Each DHB is governed by up to 11 people, who are in charge of setting out a strategy and tracking the district’s performance.
The beautiful Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve, on the North Island
In any of these DHBs, you’ll be entitled to subsidised primary healthcare services – like doctor’s visits – as well as subsidies on prescribed medications, free hospital care, and disability support services.
And if you suffer any accidents, you’ll be covered by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC).
Just ask your doctor or health provider to submit a claim for you up to 12 months after your accident, and this government-run entity will give you money to help with your medical bills, treatment, assistance at home and work, and income.
The main reason why 35% of Kiwis have private health insurance is to gain quicker access to non-urgent surgeries, such as hip replacements.
And of course, you can still use public health services if you have private insurance.
Is healthcare in New Zealand free?
Most health services in New Zealand are free, or at least heavily subsidised.
It’ll be free for you to access public hospital services, get health advice over the phone, and receive specialist care – though you may be put on a waiting list.
You’ll also only be charged a subsidised NZ$5 (£2.50) fee for most prescribed medications you receive.
And if your household reaches the 20-prescription threshold in any given year, you won’t have to pay for any additional prescriptions for the rest of that year.
You can expect to pay for consultations at your general practice (GP), but if you enrol with your GP, the government will subsidise your fee.
All children under 14 are eligible for free consultations – but check that your prospective GP offers them, since not all of them do. Your local DHB’s website should have the answer.
Anyone under 18 is also able to access dental care for free, but adults have to pay.
How is New Zealand healthcare funded?
The public healthcare system receives the great majority of its funding from a series of national taxes on employers, workers, and petrol purchases, to name a few.
New Zealand spent $18.7 billion (£9.6 billion) on healthcare in 2018/19, according to a government report – around 20% of the entire budget.
That works out to $3,740 (£1,920) per person.
On top of this, the average Kiwi spends another $508 (£260) per year on health services, according to The Commonwealth Fund – a total of $2.54 billion (£1.3 billion).
That means the government covers 88% of health spending.
Does New Zealand have good healthcare?
Absolutely. New Zealand is the 16th best country in the world for healthcare, according to a 2018 study published in The Lancet and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
For comparison, the UK came 23rd.
One of the ways in which New Zealand’s health system is superior is its waiting times, which are shorter than many other developed countries, according to a 2020 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Less than 25% of patients wait more than three months for common procedures like a cataract surgery, knee or hip replacement – compared to around 40% in the UK.
And what’s more, the country is excellent at cutting medical costs.
New Zealand spends 350% less on crucial medicines, per person, than the UK, according to a 2017 study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Healthy pricing competition ensures that New Zealand pays £13.50 per person on medications for conditions including pain, cholesterol, and diabetes.
All the study’s other countries, including Canada, France, Germany, and Sweden, pay at least twice as much per person.
Steffan Crausaz, who leads Pharmac – the government entity that buys medications – told Radio New Zealand that this was down to his agency “paying less for the same medicines.”
He added that doctors in New Zealand were “very judicious about reserving the more expensive [medicines] for situations where they're really needed.”
This explains New Zealand’s relatively low expenditure on healthcare per person, with the country paying just £1,920 per person.
The UK, in contrast, spends £2,989 per person – over £1,000 more than New Zealand – for inferior results.
New Zealand's excellent healthcare system is one of the reasons why the country has kept COVID-19 deaths down to just 26, according to Statista.
Healthcare in New Zealand for non residents
Healthcare in New Zealand for UK citizens
If you’re a British citizen who’s set to stay in New Zealand for less than two years, you’ll qualify for public healthcare, under the two countries’ reciprocal health agreement.
This will cover you for all medical conditions that require prompt attention, or which would become much worse without treatment. Pre-existing conditions are also covered, which is great news.
If you’ll be staying in New Zealand for more than two years – and you have the work visa to prove it – you can also access public healthcare services for free.
This also applies if your work visa will extend the amount of time you’re in New Zealand to two years.
For instance, if you’ve lived in the country for a year on a different visa, and now you’re getting a work visa for another year, you’ll qualify.
Your children will be covered too, if they’re under 17 years old – and if you become pregnant, you’ll receive free care all the way up until six weeks after your baby is born.
Then, for the first five years of your child’s life, New Zealand will pair you with a Well Child Tamariki Ora provider to support you in raising your bundle of joy.
However, if you need an expensive or complicated procedure that isn’t life-threatening, you may face a long waiting list – which is why it’s worth considering extra coverage.
35% of New Zealanders have private insurance to cover services that aren’t provided by the state or that come with lengthy waiting times, according to the latest government report.
And 41% of people aged 35 to 64 have private coverage, so if you’re a parent considering getting private medical coverage for your family, you won’t be alone.
If you want to join these Kiwis and get some peace of mind, you can sort out cover before you go. We’ve partnered with Cigna for private medical insurance in New Zealand.
With four levels of annual cover to choose from and extra modules for more flexibility, Cigna has a plan to suit your needs. Start building that plan today.
A father and son look over one of New Zealand's many stunning beaches
Is it worth having medical insurance in New Zealand?
New Zealand’s healthcare system is one of the best in the world. It covers you for everything from accidents and pre-existing conditions to pregnancies and cancer treatments.
However, if you ever need an elective surgery like a hysterectomy, prostatectomy, coronary bypass, or coronary angioplasty, you can expect higher-than-average waiting times, according to the OECD.
The average wait for a coronary bypass is 62 days, which is 62 days longer than most people would want.
You should consider acquiring private medical insurance if you:
- Want specialist care without having to wait
- Have non-urgent medical needs, like surgeries which aren’t life-saving
- May require serious dental care, as New Zealand only covers children’s dental services
- Want peace of mind for around £700 per year
Benefits of private health cover in New Zealand
- You’ll avoid kicking your heels on waiting lists
- You’re more likely to get a private room and benefit from less overworked staff
- It’s relatively cheap
- You’ll have more choice over where you receive your treatment
Average cost of health insurance in New Zealand
Cost of private medical cover for a family in New Zealand
A 40-year-old non-smoking couple with two children will have to pay around $80 (£41) per fortnight for private insurance, according to price comparison company LifeDirect.
This works out at $2,080 (£1,065) per year, or $173 (£89) per month. However, you can also choose your excess level, which can reduce your payments.
For instance, if you choose to pay a $1,000 (£510) excess in the event of a claim, you’ll usually knock around 35% off the cost of your annual policy.
For the above policy, this would mean an annual reduction of $728 (£370). You’d therefore pay just $1,352 (£693) per year, in fortnightly instalments of $52 (£27).
When you consider that private health insurance in the UK costs more than twice as much – £1,435 per year, on average – that’s not a bad price for peace of mind.
However, these are all just averages – and your family isn’t average.
To find out exactly how much private medical cover will cost you in New Zealand, start building a plan with Cigna today.
But before you sign on the dotted line, check your company isn’t planning on paying for your private health policy.
20% of people with private health insurance in New Zealand have their coverage at least partly funded by their employer, according to government data.
If your job in New Zealand pays more than $70,000 (£36,000), it’s even more likely that your company will pay towards your private coverage – so ask your new boss as soon as possible.
As a Brit, you’re entitled to enjoy all the benefits of New Zealand’s healthcare system – but while you can expect a near-comprehensive level of care, there are drawbacks.
You can expect to wait months for elective surgeries or specialist care, dental services aren’t included for adults, and you won’t have any say on where you’re treated.
If you want peace of mind and the knowledge that you’ll receive immediate attention for any medical issues, you can turn to Cigna.
Start building a customised plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.
And if you want to learn more about your new island paradise, check out The 21 Things You Should Know Before Moving to New Zealand.