Exclusive: UK healthcare deal for Kiwis being reviewed

A healthcare agreement covering Kiwis is under scrutiny in the UK (Getty)
A healthcare agreement covering Kiwis is under scrutiny in the UK (Getty)

The deal giving free medical and dental care to Kiwis travelling in the United Kingdom is to be "updated", raising concerns about the future of the benefits.

Since 1982, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have had an agreement that Kiwis travelling in the UK can access medical or dental treatment at the same cost as British citizens, and vice-versa.

Under the UK's publicly funded National Health Service (NHS) most healthcare is free for UK citizens, making it mostly free for New Zealanders as well.

The UK Department of Health has confirmed the legislation is being updated to provide clarity but that the process has not yet begun.

Last year the UK toughened the rules to make most visitors from outside the EU pay 150% of the cost of ongoing treatment in an effort to clamp down on "health tourism". A health surcharge of around $440 was also imposed on visa applications for non-EU visitors but New Zealand was exempt because of our mutual agreement. Doctors' visits and Accident and Emergency remained free.

New Zealand tourists and the thousands of Kiwis who choose to do their OE in the UK are covered by the 1982 agreement.

Both the New Zealand and UK governments have agreed the deal needs to be updated because the legislation is old and some of the language is not well defined, but it comes as the UK is cracking down on migrant benefits to relieve the strain on its economy.