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How to Pay for Healthcare Services in New Zealand

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Paying for healthcare in New Zealand if you are from overseas.

Being ill or injured sucks but it sucks more when you are in an entirely different country with different healthcare systems and no one to make you hot soup. However, New Zealand is definitely not a bad country to have an accident in or have the need to see a doctor. Healthcare in New Zealand is made pretty affordable thanks to government subsidies and public accident compensation schemes, which overseas visitors are eligible for too. To prepare you for if or when the worst should happen, we have put this quick guide together on how to pay for healthcare services in New Zealand.

The price of healthcare in New Zealand is reasonable when you only break a bone or need to have a doctor’s consultation once with perhaps a quick proscription to pick up. Anything more than that is when the expenses can add up and you’ll be thankful that travel insurance has been made mandatory as a condition of your working holiday visa. As for visitors who get a choice on the matter, consider if you would like travel insurance by taking a look at 6 Reasons to Get Medical and Travel Insurance.

5 ways to keep the cost of healthcare down when backpacking in New Zealand

You can’t prepare for everything, but you can reduce your chances of getting sick, being in an accident, or needing to get medication in New Zealand.

  • See a doctor before you leave home – get a check up so there are no nasty surprises during your trip in New Zealand
  • Stock up on your prescriptions before leaving home – you can bring three-months worth of medication into New Zealand. If you need more, ask your doctor and pharmacist to write a letter explaining why, in case you need to show this at the Immigration desk when you arrive in New Zealand. On the same note, remember to declare your mediation on your Passenger Arrival Card
  • Be aware of how to stay safe in New Zealand’s outdoor environments with Outdoor Safety When Hiking in New Zealand
  • Understand the rules of New Zealand roads when driving with How to Drive in New Zealand
  • Choose a comprehensive travel insurance that actually covers what’s necessary and that comes at a fair price. More information below!

For more health tips, check out Health Tips For Travelling in New Zealand.

Flying Kiwi

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Paying for healthcare in New Zealand due to illness

The healthcare system in New Zealand is mostly made up of private providers. If you are a visitor or hold a work visa for less than two years (which is the case with working holiday visas), then you will have to pay full price for healthcare in New Zealand as and when you need it.

How much does seeing a doctor cost?

The price to see a general practitioner (GP)/doctor for overseas visitors is usually around NZ$80. Additional care and treatment varies in price on a case-by-case basis. The fee to see the GP is usually paid at the end of the appointment. The fee may also be reduced for simple appointments, such as just writing a prescription for medication that you already take, (this mainly depends on how generous the GP is feeling).

Ask for a receipt and a full medical report for any medical treatment or GP consultation so that you can use it to claim your money back with your travel insurance provider. (See more below).

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Injuries from accidents

Everyone, whether you’re a visitor or live in New Zealand, is entitled to New Zealand’s person accident compensation scheme run by the Accident compensation Corporation (ACC). This covers part, but likely not all, of your medical bill.

The ACC provide no-fault cover for injuries caused by any kind of accident, whether it’s a trip, fall, from skiing, from being at work, from being in a hostel – anything. You are even covered if you caused the accident.

The ACC helps with the cost of medication, treatment and rehabilitation. However, there may be some part-costs involved from you for some treatments. These would then be covered by your travel insurance.

For more information, see What is ACC and Employee Accident Cover?

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Injuries from accidents at work

If you are injured at work then it is important that you record this straight away on an ACC form with your employer. That way, if you have to spend some time off work, your employer and the ACC may compensate you for the loss of earnings during your time off work. You are eligible for this compensation even if you are on a working holiday visa.

Again, more information is outlined in What is ACC and Employee Accident Cover?

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Medication costs in New Zealand

Once you are given a prescription from a GP/doctor, you can pick it up from a pharmacy. The cost of many medicines are covered through the public healthcare system. What medications are covered and what is not is decided by Pharmaceutical Management Agency (PHARMAC), where you can read more about what’s covered on their website. Each medicine that is covered will cost NZ$5 to pick up from a pharmacy. Medicines that are not subsidised will cost more.

Medication may be covered by your travel insurance so be sure to keep the receipt and contact your travel insurance provider.

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Paying for dental care and vision care

Dentists and opticians are run by private companies in New Zealand, meaning there is a great difference between prices for dental and vision care. You will have to pay for dentists and opticians yourself, unless you have dental issues caused by an accident that occurred in New Zealand, then you may be able to get some compensation from the ACC for dental care.

It’s best to shop around when looking for dentists and opticians in New Zealand, as it is unlikely that your travel insurance will cover this (unless you have added it on as an extra).

If you want to buy glasses or contact lenses from an opticians in New Zealand, it is usually mandatory to have an eye test first. However, a way around this if you know your prescription is to order them online.

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Paying for healthcare with your travel insurance

It is compulsory for working holiday visa-holders to have travel insurance during their time in New Zealand. For those on a visitor visa, the choice is up to you. For those who have travel insurance, what it covers depends on the policy you have purchased. In most cases, your travel insurance will cover the cost of medical consultations with a GP/doctor and any part cost that is not covered by ACC or the New Zealand healthcare system.

How to Pay using travel insurance

You will need to pay for doctor consultations and prescriptions upfront. Otherwise, you will be sent a bill for more complex treatments or rehabilitation. You can then claim this money back with your travel insurance company. This is usually done by filling out a claim form on your travel insurance website or by making a phone call to your travel insurance. Make sure that you have the appropriate paperwork necessary to make a claim, such as the receipt of your medical bill and a full doctor’s report.

How to choose travel insurance

Choosing good travel insurance is a tricky business with so many companies out there offering different things – some things you need and some things that are completely bogus. Consider what you might actually need should the worse happen, such as: luggage/personal items, work cover, disrupted travel and transit. You may also want to add cover for extreme sports like scuba diving and skiing, which is not usually included in basic travel insurance plans.

A reliable New Zealand-based travel insurance that we’ve tried and tested is Orbit Protect. Read more about that, as well as some serious tips for choosing travel insurance for New Zealand in our Medical and Travel Insurance for New Zealand article.

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