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Do I Need Health Insurance?

In a word, yes. The New Zealand public health system only gives immediate treatment for acute conditions. If you have a condition which does not need immediate treatment, even if it is serious, then you could end up on a waiting list for months or even years.

Health insurance enables you to access the private health system in New Zealand. This consists of a large network of private hospitals, clinics and medical specialists, so you can get immediate treatment for the wide range of conditions which do not qualify you for immediate treatment in the public system.

Health insurance routinely pays for 100% of the costs of private medical treatment, after deducting an excess (if you have chosen to have one). Depending on the treatment required, these costs can be so high that many Kiwis would be simply unable to afford them without health insurance. For example, the following are the typical costs of medical procedures which are performed privately every day:

  Medical Procedure Cost Range
1. Heart valve replacement $47,300 - $58,500
2. Cardiac bypass surgery $40,700 - $49,500
3. Radiation therapy $16,500 - $29,700
4. Prostate brachytherapy $23,100 - $27,500
5. Total knee replacement surgery $20,900 - $25,300
6. Total hip replacement surgery $19,800 - $24,200
7. Angioplasty $18,700 - $22,000
8. Hysterectomy $11,000 - $14,300
9. Prostate removal $11,000 - $13,200
10. Thyroidectomy $9,130 - $11,220
11. Mastectomy $9,130 - $11,000
12. Laparoscopic gall bladder surgery $7,480 - $9,240
13. Hernia repair $5,940 - $7,260
14. Knee arthroscopy $4,400 - $5,500
15. Angiogram $3,960 - $4,840
16. Cataract removal $3,850 - $4,400
17. Wisdom teeth removal $2,090 - $2,640
18. Colonoscopy $1,650 - $1,980
19. MRI Scan $1,100 - $1,320
20. CT Scan $660 - $880

If you wonder whether you need health insurance, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Am I prepared to wait months or even years for treatment of a serious medical condition?
  2. Could I afford to be off work partially or fully for an extended period, while I wait for treatment?
  3. Could I afford to meet the cost of private treatment, at a moment’s notice, from my own funds?
  4. Does anyone depend on me financially, including meeting the cost of treatment if they need it?
  5. Would I want to choose my own specialist and hospital if I had a serious medical condition?
  6. Am I free of major health issues, so that I could get health cover now on good rates and terms?

One more question: Is there anything you would trade for your health, or the health of your family?