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Healthcare in
New Zealand

Here we share some general information about Healthcare in New Zealand.

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New Zealand's healthcare system delivers high-quality care at a cost that's relatively modest compared to global standards. It blends elements of both private, for-profit systems and public models, offering a unique approach that may take some adjustment for those familiar with more traditional frameworks.

A formal description of eligibility criteria for visitors to New Zealand can be found on the Ministry of Health site. This page touches on:

  • Public and hospitals

  • Specialist doctors and prescription costs

  • Accident compensation

Useful Information

New Zealand's healthcare system is globally renowned for its excellence. Understanding its workings ensures you have the best possible experience. While we provide an overview here, remember that healthcare is dynamic, and what holds true today may evolve tomorrow. Find all District Health Boards here

Private Health Insurance
When you have an Accident in NZ
Free Public Hospitals, Accessible To All

The core of New Zealand's healthcare system is its network of regional Health Boards, responsible for both hospital care and community health programs. Currently under review, the system aims to centralize decision-making on healthcare programs across regions. These services are publicly funded through taxes, ensuring no direct costs to New Zealand citizens. While not every regional hospital offers world-class services in every specialty, the system facilitates patient transfers between facilities as needed, contributing to New Zealand's global acclaim for healthcare excellence.

Private Hospitals, Supported By Insurance

The publicly funded healthcare system in New Zealand maintains efficiency by prioritizing essential services while allowing a private, fee-for-service hospital sector to operate alongside it. Immediate, life-threatening conditions receive prompt, world-class care in the public system. For non-immediate, elective procedures like hernia repairs or treatment for varicose veins, patients may opt to undergo treatment sooner in a private hospital, bypassing public waiting lists. This private sector is bolstered by a voluntary health insurance industry widely subscribed to by New Zealanders. Unlike the public system, the growth and operations of the private sector are not regulated by the government, affording patients the choice of treatment urgency based on personal preferences or public perceptions. For instance, complex heart surgeries can be performed in either the public or private sectors, depending on patient preference.

Specialist Doctors In Both Systems

Doctors in New Zealand often practice in both the public and private healthcare sectors simultaneously. Your specialist, who sees patients in their private rooms on a fee-for-service basis, might also provide consultations at a public hospital clinic free of charge. The quality of care remains top-notch in both settings. The primary distinction lies in the speed and location of treatment for non-life-threatening conditions.

Primary Health Care

Primary health care, typically provided by local General Practitioners (GPs), is predominantly offered through the private sector in New Zealand. The government subsidizes your visits to the doctor, allowing GPs the option to charge a small additional fee. Some GPs operate entirely on this subsidy, offering free care, while others charge nominal fees. These fees are generally lower than those in other countries. If desired, you can opt for private insurance to cover these GP costs. When referred to a specialist, your GP typically offers you the choice between private or public healthcare services.

Prescription Costs

Prescription costs in New Zealand are significantly subsidized by taxpayers. If your doctor prescribes medications outside of approved lists, you may face higher charges, though this is uncommon for most prescriptions. Insurance can help cover these modest costs, either partially or fully.

Accident Compensation

When you interact with the New Zealand health system due to illness or accident, you receive the same high-quality care. However, the funding mechanisms differ. For illness, the government covers costs through taxes. For accidents, New Zealand operates a unique system where people relinquish the right to sue for accidents, instead funding care and rehabilitation through the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). ACC manages treatment, recovery, and if needed, long-term care and retraining, focusing on full rehabilitation rather than monetary compensation. They also oversee accident prevention programs, with employers incentivized to maintain safe workplaces through levies based on their accident records. This approach applies to accidents in workplaces, homes, or sports, regardless of fault.

“Entering” The Health System

In New Zealand, there's no special registration process required for healthcare. Simply being in need of treatment qualifies you for care. (Note: Temporary visitors may have different requirements.) It's important to register with a local General Practitioner promptly, especially if you have children. Share your health history and take advantage of publicly funded vaccination and primary health programs.


Decide whether health insurance is right for your family and explore options that fit your budget and needs. Remember, health insurance is voluntary, not mandatory, so take your time to find the plan that works best for you.

General Comments

Visitors to New Zealand will receive necessary treatment if required. For accidents, the ACC scheme covers costs, though there's no option to sue. Treatment for illnesses typically incurs costs unless you're a UK or Australian resident, benefiting from reciprocal agreements. Those on Work Visas may access free healthcare, but eligibility varies. Non-residents are advised to have travel insurance when visiting New Zealand.


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