While many of our articles have focused on the type of insurance we recommend for travellers to and from New Zealand, little is written about the burden on the taxpayer resulting from those visitors who do not have travel insurance. This article will discuss some of the recent data and information about non-insured visitors to New Zealand.
Every year in New Zealand there are patients admitted to our hospitals who are ineligible for publicly funded healthcare because they are not residents here (and they failed to meet other criteria). The type of illnesses range from liver disease, angina, kidney disease, kidney stones, and abdominal pain, to name just a few.
Usually these people are treated at the expense of the New Zealand taxpayer, with most of that money, amounting to thousands of dollars, being written off as bad debt by the District Health Boards that they fall under. An estimated total for New Zealand, over the 10 year period between 2000 and 2010, is $630 million. This debt will reach about $1 billion this decade, if there are no changes to identification, billing and recovery cost systems currently used.
Statistics show that out of the three million plus travellers to New Zealand, 80% are not entitled to free healthcare and those without travel insurance are a major burden on our health system. New Zealand’s Minister of Health has publicly acknowledged the problem and has stated in the media that systems would be tightened up. Measures being discussed include the sharing of information between government agencies, that will help check who is eligible for public care. For example, some accidents are covered by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), but not all.
The cost to travellers not only includes medical care, but also the cost of extending their stay. This can include changes to flights, additional costs of accommodation for them and their travel companions or family, phone bills, food etc. All these costs accumulate and can amount to tens of thousands of dollars.
The Immigration department recommends that visitors to New Zealand have comprehensive medical insurance for the entire length of their stay. Some visa categories require compulsory medical and travel insurance (such as Working Holiday visas), so it pays to check these criteria carefully before you start travelling.
New Zealand inbound travel insurance providers have a wide range of options specifically designed for different visa categories, and their travel insurance policies work best within the framework of the New Zealand health system. Furthermore, travellers may be surprised to find that travel insurance is not costly. Many travel and health insurance brokers can easily and quickly give quotes on insurance costs, for all lengths of stay. These brokers can also explain how the health care system works in New Zealand, and give an outline of who is eligible to free healthcare and who is not.