Monday, September 26, 2011

Health Matters 2

The most worrying and complicated thing about moving from Australia to New Zealand has been Health Costs. When I previously visited New Zealand, I took out travel insurance and I usually take it out now when I return to Australia although last year I found it cheaper to take out world wide insurance for 12 months but that has now run out and, as I do not plan to travel anywhere other than Australia for the next year, I have not renewed it.

However both Australia and New Zealand provide reciprocal medical facilities for each others citizens. My main worry would be the need to be medically evacuated home.
I discovered that once I could prove my intention to reside permanently in New Zealand (either after 2 years or, in my case,  purchasing a home) I was entitled to the same medical benefits as any New Zealander.  But there are differences.

The good side is medical prescriptions. In Australia a prescription medicine usually costs $34. 20 and if one is on long term medicine eg blood pressure, you visit the doctor every 6 months and receive a prescription with 5 repeats each costing $34.20.
When I became an aged pensioner the cost went down to $5.60.  There is a safety net but you need to have more than about 52 prescriptions in a year before that applies.

In New Zealand a prescription costs just $3 and while you must visit the doctor every 3 months each prescription covers 3 months supply. I take 2 blood pressure tablets each day and one for cholesterol. These cost me a total of $3 per month in New Zealand while in Australia they would now cost me $17.40 and were $102.60 before I reached age 65. Strangely a prescription from a specialist (eg the antibiotics after today's surgery) costs $15.

Visiting a General Practitioner (family doctor/primary health care) is more complicated. In Australia the visit may be over $40 but you take the receipt to Medicare (paid for in a tax surcharge) and receive just under $30 refund. Some Medical clinics bulk bill, ie you pay nothing, just sign a form and they collect the refund. Usually such clinics charge after hours or if you make an appointment rather than just turn up and wait. It is not allowed to insure for primary health cover.

In New Zealand the charge may also be $40 - $50 but, after you register with a medical clinic, it is reduced to $25 for a visit. You can take out insurance at a very high cost. There are safety nets for high users.

Specialists in Australia are similar to General Practitioners, you pay the bill and go to Medicare for a refund. It depends on the specialist as to how much they charge over the Medicare amount. To gain a refund you must have a referral from a General Practitioner.

In New Zealand the Specialist is free if you are referred by a GP and are prepared to wait (unless it is urgent). You can avoid waiting by going to a private specialist (as I did with my skin cancers) but then you must pay.  Similarly with hospitals.

In Australia I had Private Health Insurance. As I had been insured since starting work, I was fully covered. The government paid 30% of the cost and besides hospital procedures I was covered (with limits)  for physiotherapy, prescription glasses, dentists etc. The insurer is not allowed to vary the cost as you age (except by regulated cost of living amounts).

I have just looked into private health insurance in New Zealand. After over a month of forms and inquiries to my GP, I was offered insurance at much the same price as in Australia but it only covered hospitals and had so many exceptions, based on my medical history, it was not worth it.  It would also increase as I got older. My main worry is non urgent items such as joint replacements. I will either have to wait or if it is too painful try to find the money. As I already have arthritis the insurer would not cover me.

In Australia I paid $250 (the agreed excess) for my one stay in hospital for back surgery in 2003. In 2006 I attended the hospital with chest pain (and was told my likelihood of a heart attack was almost nil) and agreed to be treated as a private patient. I therefore received a newspaper in the morning and a taxi voucher back to the railway station.

New Zealand does have an excellent accident cover although some people do not think so. You cannot sue anyone for compensation. The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), paid for by employers and car registration, helps to pay for the cost of injuries from work, home and sports or other leisure activities. 

Ambulance cover is subsidised but I have joined the Ambulance service for $35 per year and so it will be free.

1 comment:

Eric Kyte said...

Having just flown in from England I am even More aware of the great gift that was the National Health Service - now in a lengthy and painful process of a dismemberment, one which would make a medieval torturer blush with shame