9 Feb 2016

No health surcharge for Britons in NZ

2:05 pm on 9 February 2016

The New Zealand government is not considering introducing a health surcharge for visitors from the United Kingdom, despite a new charge for Kiwis in Britain.

170414. Photo Diego Opatowski / RNZ. Christchurch Hospital main Entrance

Christchurch Hospital main entrance. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The British government announced last week that New Zealanders would incur a surcharge of £200 ($NZ435) if they were in the UK for more than six months.

Under a reciprocal agreement, New Zealanders have not had to pay to use the British national health service up until now.

The British immigration minister said it was only fair that New Zealanders contribute to the service as other non-European Union nationals do.

Prime Minister John Key said while the move was disappointing, there were no plans to do the same here.

"One of the reasons for that is - and this is the point the British High Commissioner has been at lengths to make - is that the rules aren't equal at the moment.

"He would say that if a British person comes to New Zealand and has to go to the doctor, they actually have to make a payment for that, if [a New Zealander] goes in the UK his argument is that you don't because under the NHS it's free."

Mr Key said he considered the surcharge a reduction in rights for New Zealanders, but he did not expect the decision to be reversed.

But Labour leader Andrew Little said the Prime Minister should be doing more to stop New Zealanders being fleeced by the new health surcharge.

Mr Little said Mr Key should raise the matter directly with his British counterpart.

"John Key has got all these great friendships with all these great world leaders, including David Cameron. I would expect him to be on the phone instantly, saying this isn't good enough."

The change will take effect from April 6 and will include New Zealanders who were already in the UK and applied to extend their stay, the British Home Office said.