Do you know whether you need health insurance in your chosen destination?

When you move abroad, it is vital to make sure that you understand what the healthcare is like in your new country. It is prudent to research issues such as life expectancy, health care spending per head, ease of access etc.

Many countries require you take out health insurance as part of your basic healthcare coverage. Ensuring you are fully covered, especially if you are travelling with children, is vital. Nothing will ruin the experience of moving to another country more if you not only need access to healthcare urgently but also face paying a huge bill because you weren't covered adequately.

 

Australia

When you arrive in Australia as a migrant with permanent residency, you are generally allowed to join Medicare and therefore gain immediate access to those health care services. It makes the distinction between services which are hospital-based and those which you receive outside a hospital such as Doctor's appointment or a visit to the dentist.

However, Medicare, whilst designed to meet the majority of any individual's healthcare needs, is not a comprehensive solution. Many native Australians, as well as newer migrants, choose to take out an additional private health insurance plan which will 'top up' the Medicare service.

Private Health Insurance

Whilst Medicare acts as a primary source of health cover, many people choose to take an additional private health insurance policy designed to give you greater choice and options for things which are not covered in the Medicare system.

Indeed, for some overseas visitors or categories of migrants, it is actually a requirement to have an adequate level of health insurance prior to your departure for Australia in order for the visa to be granted.

For example, before you are granted a 457 temporary business visa, you have to demonstrate that you have organised sufficient private health insurance for both yourself and any family members who may moving with you. You are also required to ensure that the cover is maintained for the entire length of your visa. Failure to do so would count as a breach of your visa requirements.

In order to ensure that the interests of consumers of private health insurance are protected, the government set up an ombudsman to handle dispute resolution and provide advice and guidance about issues affecting consumers. The Private Health Insurance Ombudsman (PHIO) also provides information and advice to consumers.

Private Health Insurance Ombudsman - Australia
Private Health Insurance information - Australian Government

 

Canada

In Canada, the health care system is made up of a public health care system, which is funded through taxes and is administered by the provinces and territories. All Canadians and permanent residents are entitled to apply for public health insurance.

When you need to use any health services, you will have to show your health insurance card. It is extremely wise to carry your health card at all times as health service providers check the health care coverage of people they treat.

It is important to remember that you will need to apply to the particular province or territorial government that you are moving to and should be done as soon as possible after you have moved to Canada. You will need to show id proving your resident status.

Public health care coverage can sometimes take up to three months to become effective after your application. It is highly advisable, therefore, to take a comprehensive private health care plan to cover you and your family for this interim period.

Most health care provided at a provincial level is reciprocated across Canada but, it is important to note, coverage in one province or territory may not extend fully when travelling to another.

Health Canada - Government Information

It is vital to carefully assess what you are actually covered for when deciding on the best combination of public and private health insurance.

 

New Zealand

In New Zealand, comprehensive medical care is available to all citizens, residents and holders of a work visa of longer than two years at the point they arrive in New Zealand. If you are eligible under these criteria then any children you have, aged 17yrs or under, will also be eligible.

Visitors to New Zealand are advised to take out private health insurance unless the health services are required as a result of an accident or the visitor is a citizen or permanent resident of either Australia or Great Britain and require urgent medical treatment.

The public health care system is generally pretty comprehensive and covers the majority of health care requirements. However, you may also want to take out private health insurance as this will help you receive faster treatment than is available in public hospitals (health care is, in effect, rationed through waiting times and these can often be several months for non-urgent procedures).

It can range from basic core policies that cover elective surgical treatment only (currently around 68% of all policies) to comprehensive plans including diagnostic items such as scans, optical treatment and dental cover. Nearly 1.4 million New Zealanders take out some form of private health insurance or just under 30% of the population.

It is worth noting that the level of premium will be based on your age (older people make more claims!) and the nature of any pre-existing conditions, of which full disclosure is required.

Healthcare in New Zealand is, in the main, a public system, with the private sector only contributing around 17% of spending. This compares to an OECD average of 28% and a level of 33% in Australia. In part it explains why public health care is forecast to rise from around 7% of GDP to 11% in the coming decades, a level that may well not be sustainable. Moves to encourage greater take up of private health insurance may become more prevalent in the years to come.

For further information about healthcare in New Zealand, have a look at the government website dedicated to information about healthcare

Healthcare Guide - New Zealand Government

 Injuries resulting from accidents, whether caused by a car accident, injuries from DIY mishaps, slips, trips or participating in sports are all covered by the Accident Compensation Scheme. There is a specific definition of injury which is applied (actual physical damage must have been caused) and it must be a personal injury.
Anyone, even visitors, is eligible BUT cover only applies to injuries that occur whilst actually in New Zealand. Having ACC cover means that you are unable to sue for damages that result from the injury you receive.
There are several exemptions to coverage, mainly relating to illness, stress and parts of the body that simply wear out with age!