I’m visiting from overseas - am I eligible for free hospital treatment?
Publicly funded medical treatment is only available to New Zealand residents and other people who fit the criteria set out in the Ministry of Health’s Guide to eligibility for publicly funded health services.
If you are not eligible under these criteria, you may still be eligible for a limited range of funded services:
You have had an accident or injury while in New Zealand -
All nationalities are eligible for free treatment in New Zealand if they qualify for Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) cover. The ACC scheme covers all visitors to New Zealand in cases of personal injury or accident. ACC is not a replacement for travel insurance and will not cover illness, disrupted travel plans or emergency travel home. The injury must have happened in New Zealand.
ACC support may be available to you as a visitor if you are:
- injured in an accident within New Zealand
- in certain circumstances suffering from a health problem related to working in New Zealand
- injured as a result of medical treatment while you are in New Zealand
- dealing with the mental effects of a sexual assault or abuse suffered in New Zealand.
For more information see our ACC page or talk to your health provider in New Zealand.
You are an Australian or UK resident -
If you are an Australian or UK resident visiting New Zealand, then under a reciprocal agreement with your country you are eligible for some types of publicly funded medical treatment. The Ministry of Health recommends that you should still have travel insurance including health insurance.
The full list of eligibility criteria for the limited range of publicly funded services is on the Ministry of Health website. If you don’t fit any of the eligibility criteria described above then you will be expected to pay for your medical treatment, so it’s a good idea to get health insurance before you leave home.
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If I am eligible for public health care does that mean all medical care is free?
Publicly funded health care includes services which are either free or subsidised by the Government.
- free care at public hospitals, including acute or emergency care, X-rays, laboratory tests;
- subsidised visits to the doctor or medical centre - if you are enrolled in a Primary Health Organisation (PHO) you may be charged less per visit than if you go to a different doctor or centre;
- if you have a Community Services Card you can get further subsidies on the cost of doctor visits and prescribed medication, and free home-based support if you have a disability;
- dental treatment:
- Free dental treatment (not including orthodontics e.g. braces) for children aged up to 13 years, from practitioners at community-based clinics;
- A limited range of free dental services for young people aged up to 18 years, from practitioners who are contracted by the local district health board (DHB);
- In some areas, adults with a Community Services Card may be able to get free or subsidised emergency and dental care at a hospital;
- free or subsidised primary maternity care (you may have to pay for ultrasound scans, antenatal classes, some tests at private laboratories, or if you visit a private obstetrician or private hospital) by a Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) e.g. midwife, GP;
- a range of free maternity and HIV-related services to pregnant women who are-HIV positive;
- free consultations at Family Planning clinics for people aged 21 years or less;
- Many vaccinations are free, some are free to people with chronic medical conditions.
If you are suspected of a notifiable infectious disease, then you can get some services for free or subsidised even if you are otherwise ineligible for publicly funded health services.
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Is there any financial assistance for travel to hospital?
If you have to travel to and from appointments with your dentist, GP or specialist but don’t have your own means of transport and are not able to access public transport, you might be able to get free transport from a community health shuttle provider.
St John and Red Cross are the main providers of free (or by donation) health shuttle services. Your local CAB can help you find a health shuttle provider near you, and may be able to help you make a booking.
If you have a disability that affects your mobility you may be eligible for discounted taxi rides under the Total Mobility Scheme.
Travel assistance is available to New Zealand residents who need to travel long distances to access specialist health and disability services. It helps cover the cost of things like transport, accommodation, having a support person. If you think you might be entitled to financial help you can find more information about the National Travel Assistance Scheme on the Ministry of Health website.
If you are not receiving help with travel costs through the National Travel Assistance Scheme (above) from a Disability Allowance or from a health agency, you may be eligible for help with the cost of health-related travel from Work and Income.
You may be eligible for a disability allowance to cover the cost of things like travelling to medical appointments, if you have a disability which will last six months or longer.
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I want to make a complaint about my treatment at a hospital how can I do this?
You should first talk to the hospital or clinic about what you’re unhappy with; there are advocates available to help you make a complaint. All health and disability services are required under the Code of Health and Disability Rights to respond to complaints in a timely and appropriate manner.
If this doesn’t resolve your complaint satisfactorily, you can make a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC). Read our Health and Disability Commissioner page for more details.
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Is there a free interpreting service to help my friend in hospital who doesn’t speak very good English?
Some hospitals and other health providers have access to Language Line, a free telephone interpretation service provided by the Office of Ethnic Communities. View this list to see whether this service is available at the hospital your friend is in, and this list to find out which languages are available.
If your friend has general queries e.g. about their rights as a health or disability client, they can call CAB Language Connect (09 624 2550 within Auckland or 0800 78 88 77 elsewhere in New Zealand) for help in one of around 15 languages.
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I have been discharged from hospital but am not well enough yet to look after myself at home. Who can help me?
When you are discharged from hospital, the hospital should discuss with you what will happen when you leave, including things like whether you will need support at home:
If you don’t think you’ll be able to look after yourself at home, you might consider staying with a family member who can look after you. If this is not possible you can ask for home help. Depending on your needs you may be able to get some home help through your district health board. You can read more about this on our Other health services page.
If your are assessed as needing a greater level of care than can be provided to you in your own home (eg you are an older person with long term a disability), the assessor may suggest residential care.