Congratulations On Getting Your Visa.

Well done! The visa is in the passport and you’re immigrating to New Zealand. I know how you feel, I’ve done it. You’ll be glad you decided to make the move it’s a fantastic country to live in and raise a family. For all the similarity though there are many differences. I am sure you have been thorough looking into everything but here is something immigrants, especially those from the UK, don’t think about.

Soon after arriving in New Zealand I realised I hadn’t just left family, friends and decent fish and chips but also many of the benefits of the UK welfare state that I had previously taken for granted. In the next few hundred words I will go over the differences in the health care system, particularly the costs and offer a solution in how to deal with them.

This Is the Blog Post I Wish I Had Read Before Immigrating.

The health service is important because everyone gets ill at some point. With new bugs to contend with too you will probably meet a health care professional sooner rather than later, especially if you have children.

Assuming that you have the appropriate visa if you have an emergency or an accident the NZ system is excellent, they will patch you up and get you on your feet if they can. In the case of an accident treatment is even better than the NHS due to ACC. I am sure you are aware of the ACC, if not check out this blog.

So What Are The Differences?

A trip to the GP will cost you money, it’s now free for kids under 13 but for an adult expect to pay anything from $20 to $80 or more. The cost will vary for each practice and will be even more expensive if you are not enrolled in that surgery as there is no government subsidy.

It will also cost to see the nurse, get an non-emergency x-ray, go to the hearing clinic and the pharmacist. These bills are expected to be settled immediately and credit card is often not an option. If you need the GP after hours it can cost several hundred dollars. This means that many people go to the local hospital which can cause long waits at A&E.

As you can imagine these cost can become significant over a year.

That is before you add in the cost of the dentist, fortunately most of them allow you to take a loan for treatment.

There is a way to cover most of these costs though.

There Are Two Waiting Lists!

To all intents and purposes there are two waiting lists for elective (non-emergency) surgery. There is the waiting list for the surgery and a second waiting list is a waiting list to get on the waiting list. This works on a points system which is different from area to area depending on capacity.

The GP and consultant can agree that you need a hernia operation, a hysterectomy or a new knee and the need is calculated. If the number of points is below the threshold then no waiting list for you. A study released in May 2016 calculated that 110,000 New Zealanders were on the waiting list and 170,000 were in a holding pattern to get on the list.

Simply put over 60% of those told they need surgery weren’t able to get on the waiting list.

Skipping the waiting list though is possible and it can be relatively inexpensive. It is a good idea to get this in place for arrival.

Even if you get treatment there is no guarantee that the drugs you need will be paid for by the state. This is because of PHARMAC – The Pharmaceutical Management Agency.


PHARMAC is the government agency similar to but more powerful than NICE in England and the SMC in Scotland. They assess the need for a product and bargain with the pharmaceutical companies for the best deal. This means there is only one or sometimes two treatment options for every ailment. This is across the board and there are no exceptions; if you need a drug in hospital to save your child’s life and PHARMAC don’t fund it you will have to pay for it. This can cost $100,000’s and it is not uncommon to see people fundraise for treatment. A recent case making the press was for an anti-cancer drug for Melanoma, which cost over $10,000 a month.

Many people have had to spent all they have to try and get treatment for a family member.

It is important to remember that although the state won’t pay there are other options to get the medicine that your family may need.

It’s A Small Country After All

One of the great things about New Zealand is the space, and this is because there is nobody here … well about 4.5 million in a country 10% bigger than the UK. There are approximately the same number of clinicians per head (about 3 per 1000) but in reality this means 180,000 or so less doctors in New Zealand. This means fewer skills, in some cases the specialists just aren’t there. If this is the case the waiting list can be extremely long as a surgeon may have to visit from Australia. Alternatively it can require an expensive trip abroad, which won’t be funded by the health service.

There are gaps in health care that many find surprising. For example there is no child cancer specialists in the capital and hasn’t been for about 5 years. It is necessary for children to fly to Auckland or Christchurch to get treatment. This puts extra expense on families and again fundraising is not uncommon.

This is not unsurmountable though.

What Can I Do?

Health Insurance is the easiest way to overcome these vital differences. However it must be good insurance. Purchasing online or on price will almost certainly mean a shortfall when you need it most. For example New Zealand’s biggest health insurer won’t cover treatment not funded by PHARMAC. Policy limits may seem high but they may not cover the cost of a hospital stay. It is best practice to get an expert.

Don’t worry though, for most of these situations mentioned a policy can be put in place with the right company to cover most families needs at the right price. Even if they are only in New Zealand with a work visa, comprehensive cover can be put in place. It is not too expensive either, a 30 year old couple with two children can get great cover for under $200 a month, even less if they are happy with a voluntary excess.

I would strongly advise speaking to an independent adviser that has access to several different companies. Here is my own advise company and brokerage. Get in touch and I’ll be happy to help, I understand what it is like to immigrate and have access to the biggest health insurance companies in the country.

When you arrive I can also have all other insurances you need in place, just ask.

Visa .. check , ticket … check, job … check, health insurance … contact [email protected]

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