Kiwis living in UK to pay surcharge on health, dental fees

Kiwis living in UK to pay surcharge on health, dental fees

The deal which previously entitled travelling Kiwis to free health and dental care in the United Kingdom has been updated, meaning they too will now be stung with surcharge costs.

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.

Last year the UK toughened the rules to make most visitors from outside the EU pay 150 percent 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 were covered by the 1982 agreement, but that is no longer.

Both the New Zealand and UK governments had agreed the deal needed to be updated because the legislation was old and some of the language wasn't well defined.

The new cost of $440 will only apply to those who stay six months or longer, meaning those on a visitor's visa will still be liable to any fees relating to treatment they may receive.

Prime Minister John Key says he was aware of the surcharge, and he's disappointed with the decision.

"We've also got a lower rate than other countries, so down from £200 to £150, but at the end of it, it's just another sort of chipping away of New Zealanders rights in the UK and its really disappointing," he says.

"I think we have had this relationship based on the history of our country being a British colony, and I would have thought charging Kiwis £150, if they're over there a bit longer, is a surcharge over and above the National Health System's, [is] not really keeping with the history of the two countries."

The rule also doesn’t apply to Kiwis who need emergency medical attention that cannot wait until they return to New Zealand. This will still come at no cost.

Young New Zealanders between the age of 18 and 30, who have applied for the Youth Mobility Scheme will be given a discounted rate of NZ$327.92 per year which aligns with student costs in the UK.