Health and Medical Care

The healthcare in New Zealand is of high quality and is funded via taxation. Residents receive free or subsidised care or may choose to get private healthcare.  There is a good standard of healthcare with professionals and good hospitals in all areas.

New Zealand also offers savings on health care facilities with a Community Services Card which can be applied for by people on a low income and with a big family. This can reduce costs of prescription fees and after hours doctors fees.

The emergency medical care is offered by three organisations in the country and is run by permanent staff as well as volunteers.  The three key sectors the government funded public system offers are:

  • Primary Health Care – This covers out of hospital services with some not being funded by the government. Primary health care offers first level services i.e. Mobile nursing, community health services and general practise.
  • District Health Boards – Funded by the government and is responsible for health and disability services
  • Primary Health Organisations – This brings together nurses, doctors and other health professional to assist and help patients.

Public Healthcare

Expats who have a work permit or are a permanent resident of New Zealand will be entitled for free public health care.  Individuals who have a work permit should have it for at least 24 months before qualifying for subsidised health care along with the family receiving government health benefits.

Public health care gives access to the following to the follow free or subsidised health care:

  • Hospital Care (Free)
  • Emergency Treatment (Free)
  • Some medical tests (Free)
  • Prescribed medicine for children under the age of six (Free)
  • Immunisations for children (Free)
  • Medical Check Ups and Dental Treatment for children (Free)
  • Visit to the Doctor (Subsidised)
  • Ambulance Services (Subsidised)
  • Prescribed Medicine (Subsidised)
  • Healthcare during pregnancy and Childbirth
  • Post Natal Care
  • Lab tests
  • X-Rays
  • Free breast screening for all women from ages 50-64

Any medical conditions that are serious are usually paid for by the state, but in some cases they may only be subsidised and if special treatment is required a letter of referral will be needed. A small charge will need to be given when having an appointment with chiropractors and physiotherapists.

Majority of the hospitals in New Zealand provide all levels of care and is free of charge unless you have private health care.

Private Health Care

Some people may choose to have private health care services due to the long waiting periods with public health care. Residents who have private health care can still access free public health services and will need to take out medical insurance.

In New Zealand there are many private hospitals which provide all the services and special procedures such as radiotherapy and general surgery. Individuals who have private health care will have access to private hospitals which give treatment to non-urgent and urgent conditions.

Health Insurance

It is recommended that private health insurance is taken out especially for those who don’t have permanent residency and expats are able to choose international health cover or local providers in New Zealand

Expats must be entitled to the public health care system to be able to apply for private health insurance. This will enable you to decide what doctors or specialists you want and will give you control on where you are treated.

When applying for private health insurance you will be required to provide medical history, lifestyle and family history.

The two types of health insurance policies:

  1. Comprehensive Cover: All medical costs and bills are covered but may cover just a certain amount in each year.
  2. Specialist Care and Elective (Non-urgent): A policy providing cover for specific treatments when in hospital.

Expats moving here with a secure job offer can ask employers if private health insurance is included in their employment contract. It is recommended to negotiate medical insurance with the company

Community Services Card (CSC)

A community Services Card is used by individuals with a low income to help them with the costs of health care and prescriptions. This card can be used for yourself and dependent children in your family

To apply for a community services card you will need to pick up an application from your GP or pharmacy and you will be required to provide proof of ID and well as proof of Income. This will then be given by Work and Income on behalf of the Ministry of Health within three weeks of sending the application.

You will be entitled if:

  • You are on a low income
  • You are over the age of 16
  • You are a citizen or permanent resident of the country

A CSC card will help you reduce the costs of:

  • Full priced prescriptions
  • After hours doctors visits
  • Emergency dental treatment provided by hospitals and approved dental contractors
  • Glasses for children under the age of 16
  • Visit to a doctor who isn’t your usual doctor
  • Accommodation and travel for treatment in a public hospital where patient has been referred

High Use Health Card

A high use health card is similar to a CSC card and gives regular patients reduced costs to doctor visits and prescriptions. To qualify for this card, the patient must have visited a GP more than 12 times in one year for ongoing treatments and conditions.  The doctor usually makes the application on the patient’s behalf and is valid for one year only.

Expats who have a CSC card will not need to apply for the HUHC Card as they will get the same benefits. But if you already have a HUHC Card you can apply for a CSC card as it will provide reduced costs for the family.

A HUHC Card reduces the costs of:

  • Full priced prescriptions
  • After hours GP
  • A doctor who isn’t your own

Your doctor will need to apply for this card and it can take up to five days for the application to be approved. The card will then be sent by the Ministry of Health


There are many pharmacies in New Zealand in urban areas and in the city centres. Expats will be able to purchase over the counter medications through private pharmacies including painkillers, sunscreen and skincare products.

Emergency Services

The emergency services in New Zealand are offered by St John’s Ambulance and Wellington Free Ambulance and the medical care is given by skilled paramedics.

  • The emergency number for the ambulance, police and fire services are 911
  • Patients who want free advice from trained nurses can call health line on 0800 611 116

If you require emergency treatment after an accident it will be funded by ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation) but can only be administered by a registered health professional. You may be required to pay feeds when visiting a GP or health professional after an accident.