6.1 The health care system in New Zealand
Today, the health care system in New Zealand is well-developed and provides patients with health care services of the high quality. At the same time, the government is fully responsible for the coverage of the health care costs of citizens. In this regard, the national health care system of New Zealand is similar to those of the UK and Canada. However, the development of the national health care system is accompanied by the development of private medicine as well. Even though the government covers health care costs, there are private insurance and health care services along with public health care system in New Zealand at the moment. However, this trend has started to emerge in the 1980s only and by the late 1990s the trend to the development of private medicine and private health insurance has weakened because it has proved to be less effective compared to the traditional health care system that was fully funded and maintained by the government.
However, the government coverage of health care costs and funding of the national health care system do not necessarily mean that health care services are absolutely free of charge for citizens of New Zealand. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that patients refer to a general practitioner or midwife first, when they need health care services. Patients are responsible for the GP’s fees which vary between NZD 35-65 (Bramhall, 2003), which are not covered normally by the government. GPs and midwives can then refer patients to specialists, who can treat them at public cost.
In fact, the national health care system covers all citizens. However, it is worth mentioning the fact that, even though the government takes responsibility for coverage health care services and funding health care system, residents of New Zealand still have to cover some costs of health care services, such as visits to GPs. Some citizens of New Zealand cannot afford paying for their visits to GPs because of their low-income or just because they have to do it too frequently, and their financial position prevents them from being able to pay for all visits to GPs that they need.
To enroll all citizens in the national health care system and to provide them with health care services of the high quality, the government provides subsidies for some categories of the population. To put it more precisely, low income citizens of New Zealand, whose income is under USD 9,800 are eligible for a Community Service Card (Bramhall, 2003). The government subsidizes GP visits for patients with a Community Service Card (CSC) (Bramhall, 2003). In such a way, the government helps low income citizens to cover their health care costs.
In addition, patients with CSC can also receive subsidies on prescribed drugs. In such a way, low income patients can not only be diagnosed due to the government subsidies for GP visits but also covers their treatment, at least partially through subsidies for purchasing prescribed drugs. In such a way, the government makes health care services available for all citizens, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
There is also High Use Health Card (HUSC) which allows for additional subsidies for GP visits and prescriptions (Bramhall, 2003). To be eligible for HUSC, which is not means tested, patients need to have visited a doctor over twelve times a year (Bramhall, 2003). In fact, HUSC were developed specifically for those residents of New Zealand, who have chronic illnesses or serious health problems and have to receive the treatment regularly.