Paying for healthcare services

You may be eligible for New Zealand's public healthcare system, for which the government pays most of the costs. If you are not eligible, make sure you have travel insurance that includes health cover.

If you are eligible, you could get free or subsidised health and disability services in New Zealand which include:

  • subsidised primary healthcare services, eg doctor’s visits
  • subsidies on prescribed medicines
  • free public hospital services
  • support services if you have disabilities.

If you are not eligible for government-funded healthcare, you can still use these services. However, you will usually need to pay for them. The government strongly recommends you get comprehensive travel insurance with health cover if you are not eligible for subsidised healthcare.

If you are injured while you are in New Zealand, the Accident Compensation Scheme (ACC) usually covers most costs for treatment and rehabilitation for residents as well as visitors. The ACC website has details on what is covered.

Publicly funded health and disability services | Ministry of Health

What we cover | ACC

Who is eligible for subsidised healthcare 

You may be eligible for subsidised healthcare if you are:

  • a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident or resident (exceptions apply if you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident - check the Ministry of Health website)
  • a work visa holder who is allowed to work here for 2 years or more
  • the holder of a work visa that allows you to work here 2 years or more when combined with time you have spent  in New Zealand just before getting your current work visa. For example, you qualify if you had a visa that allowed you to be in New Zealand for one year, and you now have a work visa that allows you to stay another year.
  • under 17 and your parent or guardian is eligible
  • an interim visa holder who was eligible immediately before you got the interim visa
  • a refugee or protected person.

If you are not on this list, you may still be eligible for the full range of services or for limited services - check details on the Ministry of Health website.

Eligibility guide for healthcare | Ministry of Health

Eligibility - questions and answers | Ministry of Health

Eligibility for limited services | Ministry of Health

The Law

Eligibility for services if you are from Australia or the United Kingdom

Special conditions apply to eligibility for subsidised healthcare if you are from Australia or the UK. The Ministry of Health website has more information.

Reciprocal health agreements with Australia and the United Kingdom | Ministry of Health

Proving you are eligible

If you are eligible for government-funded healthcare, you will need to show your healthcare provider proof of your eligibility when you visit, for example your e-visa letter. If you do not have any proof, you may have to pay.

The Ministry of Health website has a checklist of the kinds of proof you can show.

Proof of eligibility checklist | Ministry of Health

Travel insurance if you are not eligible 

The government strongly recommends you get comprehensive travel insurance with health cover if you are not eligible for subsidised healthcare services.

Comprehensive travel insurance covers you for costs in the New Zealand health system. You can buy travel insurance before you leave your country or when you arrive in New Zealand. You can decide how much cover you want.

There are special types of travel and health insurance for people on some visas, such as international students or seasonal workers.

You can get more details about insurance and compare policies from a range of New Zealand insurance providers on the websites below.

Compare health insurance providers | Life Direct

Compare health and travel insurance | Health and Travel Insurance Brokers

Compare student insurance | StudentHealth.nz

Private health insurance

The government does not fund private healthcare services, such as private hospitals or clinics. You will need to pay for these services.

A number of companies offer private health insurance policies which cover costs in the private system. You can decide how much cover you want and the types of services you want to be covered for. Note that to be able to buy most private health insurance schemes in New Zealand you must be eligible for publicly funded healthcare.

The private healthcare system gives you control over when and where you are treated for health issues. You are also usually able to choose the doctor, specialist or hospital that you prefer.

There are two main types of policies:

  • ‘Comprehensive cover’ policies that cover you for all your medical costs, including GP visits and prescriptions
  • Policies that provide cover for combinations of specialist care and elective (non-urgent) surgery.

Life Direct, a privately-operated website, has useful information about health insurance. You can also compare policies from a range of New Zealand health insurance providers.

About health insurance | Life Direct 

Compare health insurance providers | Life Direct

Cover for injuries

Accident compensation in New Zealand

Most of the costs of injuries from accidents are covered by an accident compensation scheme

If you are injured in New Zealand, you will not have to pay for healthcare services in most cases. The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), a government agency, provides personal injury cover for all New Zealand residents and visitors to New Zealand.

ACC helps pay for costs to get you back to living as normally as possible. This may include payment towards medical bills, treatment, help at home and work, and help with your income.

Your doctor or health provider will help you make a claim for ACC cover. The claim must be accepted by ACC before it will contribute to funding.

Check ACC’s website for more information about what is and is not covered, and what happens if you get injured. Guides in Cook Island Maori, Tongan, Samoan, Korean, Chinese and Hindi are also available on the website. Search for your language under Resources.

What we cover | ACC

What to do if you are injured | ACC

Dental care costs

You have to pay privately for most dental services. Costs can vary, so it is a good idea to compare fees between different dentists.

If you need dental treatment because of an accident or injury, ACC will help with the cost.

Dental care is free for eligible children up to 18 years. This free care is not available through every dental practice - check with your dentist or contact Talk Teeth on 0800 825 583.

You can find out more about dental care costs on the Ministry of Health website.

Publicly funded dental care | Ministry of Health

Protect your family's smile | Ministry of Health

Doctors' fees

Buying medicines

In New Zealand, people visit pharmacies to fill in a prescription from the doctor or to ask advice from a pharmacist.

Find out more

Doctors’ practices set their own fees. Check how much you will pay with the practice directly.

Your local district health board (DHB) website will have a list of practices and their fees. You could also look on the DoctorPricer website.

You will pay reduced doctors’ fees if you enrol with a practice. You can only enrol if you are eligible for publicly funded healthcare services.

Most practices offer free doctor’s visits for children under 14 years. Some practices offer cheaper visits for people who meet certain conditions, such as Community Card holders. Find out more on the Ministry of Health website below.

Find fees for your local GP | Doctor Pricer

Visiting a doctor - costs | Ministry of Health

List of DHBs | Ministry of Health

Hot tip

Call free healthlines

Call a health line for free advice. If English is not your first language, there are interpreters who can help.

  • Call Health Line (0800 611 116)
  • Call the free Plunket parent helpline (0800 933 922)
  • Visit the Health Navigator website

Health Navigator

Medicine costs

If you are eligible for publicly funded healthcare services, you only need to pay a small contribution to the cost of the medicines prescribed by your doctor. This is currently $5 per item in most cases.

Medicines that are not fully subsidised will cost more. They are usually free for children under 14 years.

You can find more information about medicine costs on the Ministry of Health website.

Prescription charges | Ministry of Health

List of funded medications | Pharmac

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Page last updated: 19/09/2019

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