Accessing healthcare in New Zealand
It’s important that everyone visits their doctor when they need to. Regular check-ups may mean health problems are caught earlier and treated more quickly.
If there are barriers getting to the doctor, you can check out our page on accessing public transport, and our page about finding help to cover the costs of transport. If there are other financial barriers to accessing healthcare, here are some things that may help.
Doctor visits and prescriptions
Visiting the doctor is free for most New Zealand children under 13 when they visit the clinic where they are enrolled as a patient. There are no prescription costs for children under 13 either, and visits to participating out-of-hours clinics are free too.
Once your child turns 13, fees will apply. Prices can vary, so it pays to shop around. Here are some ways to help with the cost of medical care for you and your teenage children:
A Community Services Card can reduce the cost of some healthcare services, such as after-hours doctor visits, emergency dental care provided by hospitals and approved dental contractors, home help and prescription fees if you don’t belong to a Primary Health Organisation.
Doctors can apply for a High Use Health Card (HUHC) for people who have made 12 or more visits during the year. The HUHC gives the doctor extra funding so they can spend more time developing a plan to better manage their patient’s health.
There are some providers of free healthcare services for youth (usually aged 10 – 25) around New Zealand. Clinic hours may be limited and funding for these types of services can be uncertain. Here are some organisations that currently provide free healthcare services to young people:
- Rotovegas Youth Health provide free services in Rotorua
- Directions Youth Health Centre is in Hastings
- Youth Services Trust provide free services in Wanganui
- Masterton Medical Youth Clinic
- Vibe Hutt Valley Youth Health Services
- Evolve Wellington Youth Service
- 298 Youth Health provide free services in Christchurch
- Number10 provide services in Invercargill
You can search the Family Services Directory for other providers near you.
If you have paid for 20 prescription medications within a year from 1 February, you are eligible for a Prescription Subsidy Card. This means you won’t have to pay any more prescription charges for the rest of the year. You can include prescriptions for you, your partner, and any dependent children under 18, to reach this total.
Dental care for children and adolescents is publicly funded, but once you’re over 18, you have to pay for most of your dental care privately. Learn more about publicly-funded dental care at the Ministry of Health website.
There are some circumstances where adults may be able to get help with dental care from the Ministry of Health or Work and Income.
Vision and hearing
Vision and hearing tests are scheduled as part of the Well Child programme, but if you are concerned about your child’s hearing at any time, you should speak with your doctor. They may refer you to the district health board for further investigation if appropriate. You can also choose to visit a private audiologist or optometrist at your own cost.
The Ministry of Health provides support to young people with hearing loss under the age of 16 (or up to 21 if they are in full-time education). This may include things such as hearing aids, other assistive listening devices and cochlear implants.
From the age of 16, your teenager will be able to access Life Unlimited Hearing Therapy Services. They provide a free, national hearing therapy service for all New Zealanders over 16 and offer hearing evaluations and information about hearing loss.
The Children’s Spectacle Subsidy is available to children under 15 who have either a Community Services Card or a HUHC and who meet certain clinical criteria, as discussed by your optometrist. The spectacle subsidy can be claimed to cover the costs of eye examinations, glasses, eye patches and repairs.
You can find out more about other equipment and modifications for disabled people at the Ministry of Health website.
Family planning and sexual health
Family Planning provides a free service to New Zealanders under 22, and discounted consultation fees for Community Service Card holders. Many additional services are free, such as some forms of long-term contraception, testing for pregnancy and testing for sexually transmitted infections.
Other health information and support
You can call Healthline on 0800 611 116 at any time to speak with a registered nurse if you need health advice for you or someone you care for.
PlunketLine is a free helpline for parents on 0800 933 922. Calls are answered by a Plunket nurse, who can give advice on parenting issues and child health.
The Kids Health website is a joint initiative between the Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Hospital. You’ll find a comprehensive range of health-related information, as well as parenting advice.
Everyone using health or disability services has rights. You can expect to be treated with respect and dignity; without discrimination; and to receive quality care and information that enables you to make informed decisions.
If you are concerned about a health and disability service provider, you also have the right to make a complaint. You can learn more about your rights at the Health and Disability Commissioner. You can also find other resources on our advocacy and legal support page.