New Zealand Medical Insurance
New Zealand is a small country in the western Pacific region, consisting of 4.4 million people who are concentrated primarily on two main islands, the North and the South Island. The country is dominated by two distinct cultural groups: New Zealanders of European descent, and the minority Maori, whose Polynesian ancestors arrived on the islands over 1,000 years ago. New Zealand is governed by a parliamentary political system which is modeled on that of the United Kingdom to which it was once a colonial possession. The nation is heavily dependant on international trade, particularly that of agricultural products. Today New Zealand is a prosperous nation with a vibrant economy, well-cultivated natural environment and an attractive tourism industry.
New Zealand boasts a relatively high standard of living for its inhabitants. Life expectancy is an estimated 80.4 years for women and 75.2 for men and other health indicators remain on a par with that of most European Union countries. New Zealanders tend to suffer more from alcohol-related lifestyle diseases than Europeans, but less from smoking-related diseases. The leading causes of mortality are heart and throat related diseases as well as other non-communicable problems common to that of industrialized nations. Despite recent initiatives, Maori and Pacific Islanders maintain significantly poorer health statistics and life expectancy than the population that is of European descent.
The New Zealand healthcare system has undergone multiple reforms in the past few decades, moving from a state controlled structure during the early 20th century into a public-private mixed system today that has incorporated more free market and health insurance elements into its provisioning of medical services. The national government still retains overall responsibility for the system but the delivery is divided between public, voluntary and for-profit healthcare sectors. Independent medical practitioners provide most ambulatory medical services, public hospitals provide most secondary and tertiary care, and the small private hospital sector specializes primarily in elective surgery and long term health care.
The New Zealand healthcare system remains funded mainly through general taxation supplemented by individual out-of-pocket payments and private health insurance options. The government funds around 75% of healthcare spending. All citizens and permanent residents seeking treatment will meet some or all of the costs of primary healthcare and make co-payments for pharmaceuticals and adult dental care, and are entitled to receive free public hospital outpatient and inpatient services. Low income patients can receive further discounts on medical co-payments after successfully applying for the Community Services Card system. Medical treatment required as the result of an accident isn’t covered by the state healthcare scheme but through the accident compensation scheme operated by the Accident Compensation Corporation, which recovers the costs through employers and other sources. About one-third of New Zealanders have private health insurance. Private insurance is often used to cover cost-sharing requirements, elective surgery in private hospitals, and specialist outpatient consultations.
The Ministry of Health is responsible for setting national health policy and oversees the healthcare system in New Zealand. The country is divided into 21 district health boards which cover geographically defined populations, with medical services delivered either through themselves or through the funding other providers. The district health boards are partly elected by the local populace and partly appointed by the Minister of Health. The boards act as largely autonomous authorities and are responsible for determining the medical and support service needs of the population living in their districts, and planning, providing, and purchasing those services. Each board has a funding arm and a service provision arm, operating government-owned hospitals, health centers, and community services.
New Zealand has a community-based system of healthcare, where your first point of contact for any medical problem is your family doctor or general practitioner (GP). Patients cannot access public secondary and tertiary medical services unless they are referred by their GP, except in accident or emergency circumstances. Private GPs provide most primary medical care in New Zealand and most work in group practices. Patients are free to choose their own doctor and are charged a fee for each consultation although they are often subsidized in part or whole. Secondary and tertiary healthcare services are delivered mainly by hospital inpatient services, outpatient hospital clinics and by specialists through private clinics. Most specialists are employed through public sector hospitals but many also maintain their own private practice. New Zealand has an extensive medical facility network. There are 445 hospitals in the country, 84 of which are large hospitals managed through the district health boards. Over 90% of the population is within an hour’s drive of a district hospital. Some private hospitals also receive government subsidies and there are a number of projects where the public and private sectors will co-operate to provide specialist services.
The standard of healthcare in New Zealand is excellent but the system is not immune to the infrastructure problems facing other industrialized nations. The continued evolution of hi-tech medical technology and pharmaceutical innovations coupled increasing expectations from the population for new treatments as well as an ageing population put serious strain on the financial and human resources of the state’s health care sector. In the long term the government acknowledges that demographic changes will cause the overall healthcare burden to rise, from 8.9% of GDP at present to around 13.5% by 2051. The role of private-sector healthcare has increased as a result of growing dissatisfaction with public services; particularly wait times for advanced treatment.
Foreign nationals visiting New Zealand will be expected to pay for medical services and treatment while in the country. Those requiring a simple medical consultation will be administered through the public system and those who find themselves in emergency conditions will have aid delivered immediately. Visiting the doctor will cost about NZ$50 and may vary between practices and localities. The New Zealand public healthcare system is subsidized for Australian, British and New Zealand citizens. Comprehensive insurance is advised for all other nationals. Check with your country's health department to see if a reciprocal cover agreement is in place with New Zealand. Expatriates should take note that although the quality standard of healthcare is high in New Zealand, it is strongly recommended that a visitor to the country takes out an international medical insurance policy, which should include cover for medical evacuation and medical repatriation in case of an extreme medical circumstance.
Take note that due to its southerly position, the ozone layer over New Zealand is thinner than elsewhere. This increases the risk of sunburn substantially. Take precaution during the summer. Hats and sunglasses should be worn when outdoors and a high factor sun block need be applied.
Pacific Prime will consult and offer a wide range of policies to meet your individual needs should you plan to travel to New Zealand. We offer a wide variety of health care plans and travel insurance policies with possible benefit packages including dental, maternity, inpatient, outpatient, specialist consultations, and many more. Please contact our professional advisors today for a free quote and enjoy the security that our extensive Health Insurance Plans can provide.