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Health insurance for NZ residents

Unsure if you can get cover? Let's clear up any confusion so you know exactly what your health insurance options are in Australia

If you’re a Kiwi planning a move across the ditch to Australia, it’s important to make sure you have an adequate level of health cover in place. New Zealanders are able to access a wide range of health care benefits through Medicare, the basis of Australia’s public health system.

But are these benefits sufficient, or do you need to take out private health insurance to help manage your health care costs? This article will explain how healthcare and health insurance is handled in Australia so you know what all your options are.

Compare policies from Australian health funds

Details Features
High 65 / 75 / 85% - $0/$250/$500 Excess
High 65 / 75 / 85% - $0/$250/$500 Excess
Combines High Hospital Cover with its highest level of extras cover.
  • Cover starting from $44.74 weekly
  • 12 month waiting period for pregnancy
  • 65% back on extras
  • Choice of $0, $250 and $500 excess
Enquire Now More info
Premier Package
Premier Package
Top tier combined hospital and extras policy that covers you for an extensive range of hospital and general treatment services.
  • All the benefits of HCI's Premier Hospital policy
  • All the benefits of HCI's Premier Extras policy
  • Cover for pregnancy and IVF treatment
  • Cover for general and major dental
Get Quote More info
Deluxe flexi
Deluxe flexi
Deluxe flexi provides cover for a range of treatments including hip replacement, spinal fusion, dialysis and major eye surgery.
  • No excess for kids
  • All joint replacements
  • Major eye surgery
  • Rehabilitation
Enquire Now More info
GoldStar
GoldStar
Premium hospital cover with complete cover for hospital expenses. Save 4% when you pay for 12 months of your cover upfront.
  • All theatre fees covered
  • Unlimited maternity cover
  • Choose no excess or $200, $400, $500 per admission
Get Quote More info
Smart Combination
Smart Combination
Smart combination provides a high level of cover for both hospital and extras.
  • Claim up to $2725 back on extras
  • Hip and knee replacements
  • General and major dental
  • Physio
Enquire Now More info
Prestige
Prestige
Highest level of combined cover offered by CBHS. Includes the same benefits as Comprehensive Hospital and Top Extras plus more. Restricted fund: Only current or former staff (and their families) of Commonwealth Bank Group and their subsidiaries which include Aussie, Bankwest, Colonial First State and more can join.
  • No excess or co-payments on hospital cover
  • Non-student dependent under 25 can be kept on policy
  • Access to Chronic Disease Management Programs
  • Widest range of extras including orthodontics
Enquire Now More info
Bronze Hospital (no pregnancy) and Bronze Extras Set Benefits
Bronze Hospital (no pregnancy) and Bronze Extras Set Benefits
High level of hospital cover and extras cover for a range of popular services including knee and should reconstructions.
  • Most comprehensive hospital options
  • Cover for general and major dental
  • Shared or single room in a private hospital
  • Intensive and coronary care
Enquire Now More info
Premium Hospital and Silver Extras Cover
Premium Hospital and Silver Extras Cover
Comprehensive hospital cover including pregnancy cover. Also included affordable mid-level extras cover for dental, optical and therapies.
  • Cover from $39.50 per week
  • Pregnancy and birth-related services cover
  • Heart surgery cover
  • 100% cash back on two dental check per year
Enquire Now More info
Top Hospital with Top Extras
Top Hospital with Top Extras
Get comprehensive hospital and extras cover and tailor your policy to your needs.
  • Pregnancy and birth services cover
  • Back surgery cover
  • $1000 general dental annual limit
  • $600 physiotherapy annual limit
Enquire Now More info
Young Couples Combined Cover
Young Couples Combined Cover
Mid-level hospital and basic level Extras package with an excess for young, healthy couples that are not quite ready to start a family.
  • Emergency ambulance cover
  • Cancer-related surgery cover
  • 70% back on extras
  • $300 dental annual limit per person
Enquire Now More info

What health care costs are covered in Australia for NZ expats?

Just like in New Zealand, Australia’s healthcare system is split up into public and private sectors. The public health services are provided by a government agency known as Medicare, and are funded by Australian taxpayers. If you are a New Zealander residing in Australia you are entitled to:

  • Access to free emergency care in a public hospital. although you will generally have to pay for the full cost of all non-hospital treatments, such as visits to a GP and any medications.
  • Cover for the cost of non-hospital treatments, such as GP visits and medication, providing you hold a Medicare card. If you don't you will generally have to pay the full cost for all medical services outside of hospital.

With this in mind, it’s worth enrolling in Medicare as soon as possible after arriving in Australia. Additionally, If you have already paid for some medical services covered by Medicare you may be able retroactively claim for them once you've signed up and received your card.

How does Australia's public healthcare system work?

Australia’s public healthcare system is widely recognised as one of the best in the world. Medicare is available to all Australian citizens and permanent residents, including New Zealand citizens residing in Australia, and it offers complete coverage for treatment in a public hospital and complete or partial coverage for doctors’ consultations.

Medicare provides cover for all or some of the following medical costs:

  • Free treatment and accommodation in a public hospital.
  • 75% of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) fee for services and procedures if you’re a private patient in a public or private hospital (this does not include hospital accommodation, theatre fees or medicines).
  • Doctors’ consultation fees, including specialists.
  • Tests and examinations performed by doctors, including x-rays and pathology tests.
  • Most surgical and therapeutic procedures performed by doctors.
  • Eye tests performed by optometrists.
  • Some dental surgery procedures.
  • Specified items for allied health services (as part of the Chronic Disease Management Program).

What are the benefits of getting health insurance while in Australia?

While Australia’s Medicare system allows New Zealanders to access a wide range of subsidised medical services, it still doesn’t get close to offering comprehensive cover for all healthcare needs. With this in mind, it’s worth considering some form of private health insurance while you are residing in Australia.

Around 50% of Australians have private health cover in place. Health insurance offers many benefits, including:

  • Ambulance cover. Ambulance transportation and treatment is not covered by Medicare or any other scheme in most Australian states and territories. Getting private health insurance can help you to avoid being hit with a hefty bill for ambulance costs following an emergency.
  • Dental care. Dental services aren’t covered by Australia’s public healthcare system, and you will only be able to access cover for dental treatment if the condition is affecting your overall health. Private health insurance can provide a high level of cover for expensive dental bills.
  • Cover for other extras. Private health insurance can also provide cover for the cost of a wide range of general treatments not included under Medicare, such as optical, physio, chiro, natural therapies, remedial massage, podiatry, hearing aids and health management programs.
  • Government subsidies. In order to encourage more Australians to take out cover and reduce the burden on the public healthcare system, the Australian Government offers a 30% private health insurance rebate to help make cover more affordable.
  • Tax breaks. At the same time, Australian high-income earners who don’t take out private health cover are forced to pay extra tax in the form of the Medicare Levy Surcharge. The Lifetime Health Cover scheme also ensures that Australians who fail to take out hospital cover before their 31st birthday will need to pay extra for cover when they eventually get it.

What is the RHCA?

RHCA stands for the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement. The Australian Government has agreements in place with the following countries:

  • Belgium
  • Slovenia
  • Finland
  • Norway
  • Sweden
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • The United Kingdom
  • The Republic of Ireland
  • The Netherlands
  • Italy

Under the RHCA in place with New Zealand, Kiwi citizens residing in Australia are able to access:

  • Free treatment as an inpatient or an outpatient at a public hospital.
  • Subsidised medications.
  • Medical treatment by doctors at day surgeries, clinics and community healthcare centres.

However, despite these many benefits, the RHCA is not without limitations:

  • It doesn’t provide cover for ambulance costs, dental treatment, elective surgery or any treatment that is not immediately medically necessary.
  • It also doesn’t provide cover for treatment in a private hospital, or as a private patient in a public hospital, so you may also have to contend with lengthy public hospital waiting lists.

Due to this it's recommended not to use the RHCA as your sole medical cover and consider taking out a health insurance policy during your stay in Australia.

How do I enrol in Medicare?

New Zealand citizens are eligible to enrol in Medicare if they:

  • Have been in Australia for 6 or more months in the past 12 months, either continuously or intermittently
  • Intend to stay in Australia for more than 6 of the next 12 months, either continuously or intermittently

You will need to supply all of the following in order to enrol in Medicare:

  • A completed Medicare enrolment application form
  • Copies of all used passport pages for any person listed on the application
  • Two documents to confirm your residency in Australia, such as an employment contract, enrolment in university, a rental agreement, a bank statement or an electricity account

Do NZ residents need a visa to come and live in Australia?

While residents of New Zealand are allowed to travel to Australia without obtaining a visa, if you wish to stay in Australia you will need to obtain one. Broadly speaking, there are two types of visas available to New Zealanders:

  • Permanent visas. These visas allow you to live in Australia indefinitely and access certain government benefits and services as a permanent resident.
  • Temporary visas. If you hold a temporary visa, you can only remain in Australia for a limited amount of time or for a limited purpose. For example, you may come to Australia on a work or study visa.

There’s a wide range of visa options available for New Zealand citizens, and the right visa for you will depend on your personal circumstances. It’s recommended that you research the visas available through the Australian Government’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection to work out what you need to do to apply.

Who provides health insurance in Australia?

Here you can find a complete list of Australian health insurers and their eligibility criteria. If you are a New Zealand citizen in Australia on a temporary student or work visa you can see which providers offer Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC) and Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).

NZ resident looking for Australian health insurance? Compare your options

Health fundWho can get health insurance with these funds?Find out more
HIF Logo
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join. OVHC is available for those temporarily visiting or working in Australia.
More info
health.com.aulogo
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join.
More info
ahmMore info
Australian UnityMore info
GMHBA
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join.
More info
HCF
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join. OVHC is available for those temporarily visiting or working in Australia.
More info
nib
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join. OVHC and OSHC are available for those temporarily studying, visiting or working in Australia.
More info
Transport Health Logo
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join.
More info
Bupa
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join. OVHC and OSHC are available for those temporarily studying, visiting or working in Australia.
More info
cdhlogo
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join.
More info
cua
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join.
More info
Frank
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join. OVHC is available for those temporarily visiting or working in Australia.
More info
gmflogo
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join.
More info
Australian Unity
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join. OVHC is available for those temporarily visiting or working in Australia.
More info
HBF
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join. OVHC is available for those temporarily visiting or working in Australia.
More info
hcilogo
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join.
More info
logo health partners
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join.
More info
latrobehealthlogo
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join.
More info
 medibank
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join. OVHC and OSHC are available for those temporarily studying, visiting or working in Australia.
More info
mildurahealthfundlogo
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join.
More info
onemedifundlogo
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join.
More info
peoplecare provider page link
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join. OSHC is available for those temporarily studying in Australia although it is only extras, not hospital cover.
More info
phoenix health fund provider link
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join.
More info
queensland country health fund provider link
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident who lives in Queensland or the Northern Territory is eligible to join.
More info
St. Lukes Health Logo
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join. 
More info
westfund provider link
  • Open. Any Australian citizen or permanent resident is eligible to join.
More info
acahealthlogo
  • Restricted. Open to members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and present and past employees of affiliated companies, along with the partners/spouses, dependents, siblings, parents and grandchildren of those mentioned previously.
More info
CBHS Health Fund Logo
  • Restricted. Open to employees, contractors and franchisees of Commonwealth Bank of Australia Group as well as their partners and family members, including dependent and non-dependent children, siblings, parents and grandchildren.
More info
defencehealthlogo
  • Restricted. Open to reservists and past members* of the Australian Defence Force, employees of the Department of Defence and Defence suppliers. Extended family as well as the ex-partner/spouse of those previously mentioned are also eligible to join.
More info
navyhealthlogo
  • Restricted. Open to current and former members, reservists and cadets of the ADF, employees of the DoD, Defence suppliers and more. Extended family as well as the ex-partner/spouse of those previously mentioned are also eligible to join.
More info
doctorshealthfundlogo
  • Restricted. Open to registered Medical Practitioners and Health Practitioners (in an eligible category), their employees, extended family and much more. The eligibility criteria for this fund is wide and you can view the full list via the More Info button.
More info
policehealthlogo
  • Restricted. Open to current or former (if retired or resigned after 1 Jan 2001) employees of state, territory and federal police departments/police unions including their partners/spouses, dependants and adult children plus their immediate family.
More info
rthealthlogo
  • Restricted. Open to current or former employees of Government or privately owned transport (air, sea, land) and energy generation/delivery entities, as well as those involved in administering them. Extended family of eligible members can also join.
More info
rbhslogo
  • Restricted. Open to current or former employees of the Reserve Bank of Australia and Note Printing Australia, as well as their current or ex-partner or spouse and their dependant or adult children.
More info
teachers
  • Restricted. Open to current or former members and administrative staff of approved education unions and organisations, along with their extended family. Use the More Info button to the right to view the eligible unions and organisations.
More info
tuh
  • Restricted. Open to current or former union members of any industry along with their current or ex partner/spouse, dependent children, adult children (plus their partner), siblings (plus their partners and dependent children), parents and grandchildren.
More info

NZ resident looking for Australian health insurance? Compare your options with the aid of an adviser

Picture: Shutterstock

Richard Laycock

Richard is the senior insurance writer at finder.com.au and is on a mission to make insurance easier to understand.

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