About reciprocal health agreements
New Zealand has reciprocal health agreements with Australia and the United Kingdom (UK). Under each, certain services may be publicly funded for people covered by the agreements. Those services may be funded to the same extent as for a national of the country they’re visiting or staying in temporarily.
There are a range of services that are not publicly funded, and these differ between countries. As neither reciprocal agreement provides full coverage, travellers should hold comprehensive travel insurance, including health insurance.
Full versions of the agreements
Copies of the reciprocal health agreements can be found on the New Zealand legislation website:
- Australia and New Zealand – Health Benefits (Reciprocity with Australia) Act 1999, No 18
- United Kingdom and New Zealand – Health Benefits (Reciprocity with the United Kingdom) Act 1982 No 176 (as at 03 September 2007)
Australians visiting New Zealand
A citizen or permanent resident of Australia, including the territories of Coco (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island, is covered by the New Zealand/Australia Reciprocal Health Agreement if they:
- are on a temporary visit (up to two years long) to New Zealand AND
- in the opinion of the provider of medical treatment, need immediately necessary medical treatment while in New Zealand.
- will get the same treatment as an eligible person gets
- IF that treatment is clinically necessary for the diagnosis, alleviation or care of the condition requiring attention
- including pharmaceutical benefits, hospital services, and maternity services.
Australian visitors to New Zealand are not entitled to publicly funded emergency transport by ambulance. This includes both non-injury and emergency transport. Similarly, New Zealand visitors to Australia are not entitled to publicly funded emergency transport by ambulance.
- may not enrol with a Primary Health Organisation (PHO)
- are not entitled to free or subsidised care by a primary health provider (general practitioner), except for pharmaceutical benefits
- may register with a GP, and should be allocated a NHI number if they do not already have one.
An Australian citizen or permanent resident who has been in New Zealand for a period of two years or more, or can demonstrate reasonable intention to remain in New Zealand for two years or more, is eligible for all publicly funded services, and can enrol with a PHO and get the same health subsidies as a fully eligible person.
UK citizens staying temporarily in New Zealand
A United Kingdom (UK) citizen is eligible for treatment (medical, hospital and related) on the same basis as a New Zealand citizen if they:
- are ordinarily resident in the UK (including England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Island of Jersey and the Balliwick of Guernsey, comprising the islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Herm, Jethou and Sark) AND
- are on a temporary stay in New Zealand (a temporary stay would be any stay that was not permanent, and to become permanent they would need to have a residence class visa or NZ citizenship) AND
- require medical treatment which, in the opinion of a medical practitioner (or dentist for people under 19 years)
- needs prompt attention
- for a condition that arose after arrival into New Zealand, OR became, or without treatment would have become, acutely exacerbated after arrival.
The UK Reciprocal Health Agreement is restricted to UK citizens and does not cover UK permanent residents.
When receiving services under the reciprocal agreement, a person may not enrol with a Primary Health Organisation (PHO). They should get the same health subsidies as a New Zealand citizen visiting a general practitioner as a casual patient, if the medical practitioner has decided the condition needs prompt attention. They may register with a GP, and should be allocated a NHI number if they do not already have one.
UK citizens may also be eligible for other publicly funded services, under other criteria. For example, if they have a work visa that, together with a stay on any other previous visa, allows them to be continuously in New Zealand for two years or more (ie. fully eligible), or if they require maternity-related services and have a partner who is eligible.
New Zealanders travelling to the UK or Australia
If you swap the words ‘UK’ or ‘Australian’ for ‘New Zealand’, and the words ‘New Zealand’ for ‘UK’ or ‘Australian’ in the relevant summaries above, you will see what the agreements say about the entitlements of New Zealand citizens and residence class visa holders in those countries.
For more information about the actual publicly funded services that you would be eligible for and how much they might cost, you will need to contact the consulates for those countries. There are significant differences. For example, ambulance services in Australia may not be publicly funded, and can be very expensive.
(1) When assessing whether a UK citizen is ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK, the duration of absence from the UK will be relevant.
(2) Note that the UK interprets ‘temporary stay’ as a stay of up to six months. New Zealanders travelling to the UK for longer than six months will still have access to the National Health Service, but will be required to pay an immigration health surcharge as part of their visa application from 6 April 2016. For more information, please visit the www.gov.uk website.
(3) New Zealand generally interprets ‘temporary stay’ as being a stay that is less than 2 years duration by a person who does not have permanent residency in New Zealand or hold a work visa for more than 2 years.