For expats from the U.S. and Canada, New Zealand’s government-subsidized healthcare system will be a breath of fresh air. Costs for services and medications are substantially lower, and the country’s Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) provides free medical care for all injuries sustained in New Zealand by citizens and visitors alike. In the event of an emergency, your transport to and from the hospital and a lump-sum compensation (if appropriate) will also be covered by ACC.
The ACC scheme replaces the right to sue for damages, which means that in New Zealand you cannot sue another person for causing you injury. Note that the ACC does not provide coverage for injuries sustained mostly due to ageing.
If you need to visit a doctor, expect to pay between NZ$55 to NZ$75 (US$40 to US$50) during normal business hours. Be aware that most practitioners require patient enrollment, which can take up to a few business days and may incur an additional fee. For a one-off appointment, it’s usually easiest to visit a doctor at a 24-hour health center or hospital—most of which also have on-site pharmacies for processing prescriptions.
If you’re planning to relocate to New Zealand long-term, it’s worth enrolling in a Primary Health Organization. These government-funded programs are free to join and will reduce the cost of doctor’s visits by up to 40%. You will need to enroll with a specific medical practice to participate in this program, and it can take up to three months for your application to be approved. Once you’ve joined a Primary Health Organization, you can change your doctor at any time.
Basic dental treatment in New Zealand is covered for schoolchildren up to the age of 18. Adults are expected to pay full-price for treatments, although costs can vary greatly between practitioners. Expect to pay NZ$95 to NZ$150 (US$96 to US$109) for a check-up with X-rays, NZ$110 to NZ$185 (US$80 to US$135) for most fillings, and anywhere from NZ$280 to NZ$1,400 (US$204 to US$1,019) for a crown. As with most services in the country, dental fees in Auckland are generally higher.
Private Healthcare Alternatives
In addition to its publicly-funded scheme, New Zealand offers numerous private accident, emergency, and medical clinics. These clinics provide services that focus on elective procedures, recuperative care, and privately-funded general surgery. Since waiting times for publicly-funded non-emergency surgeries hover around 304 days, many New Zealanders find it far more efficient to pay for the procedures themselves. As of 2014, close to 30% of the population had opted to purchase health insurance to mitigate these costs.
For expats keen on taking the same route, it’s worth doing some research on the healthcare system first. A policy covering NZ$200,000 (US$145,611), for example, might be excessive given that nearly all private procedures in New Zealand fall beneath the NZ$100,000 (US$72,812) mark. As with all insurance purchases, it also pays to shop around and compare prices before making your decision.