Fri, Dec 16, 2022 10:05 AM

Overseas tourists leave huge health debt


Paula Hulburt

Overseas patients who disappear without paying for emergency care have racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt.

Nelson Marlborough Health is owed $211,000 by tourists visiting from abroad who have left the country without settling their bills.

Figures from the financial year 1 July to 30 June 2022 show overseas patients paid $471,000 in costs after being treated in either Nelson or Wairau Hospital.

But more than $200,000 remains unpaid and health bosses are urging travellers to the region to ensure they have travel insurance that includes health.

A Ministry of Health spokeswoman says patients from overseas who needs critical care will be treated.

“In practice, in situations where a person needs critical, emergency treatment at a public hospital, but is ineligible for publicly funded health care, in most cases, the patient will be triaged as to how critical their care needs is.

“If necessary, treatment will be provided first and payment sorted out later. This reflects the professional ethics of providers to provide care.”

At Te Whatu Ora - Health New Zealand, Nelson Marlborough, insurance companies will only be billed if they have accepted liability and guaranteed payment.

The estimated cost must be paid in advance and any additional costs paid in full at the end of treatment.

It costs approximately $5500 a day for a patient in intensive care.

While there are some exceptions, such as compulsory mental health, care to overseas tourists having to pay, most are personally reliable for their medical bills.

New Zealand has reciprocal health agreements with Australia and Britain but neither provides full coverage.

The Ministry of Health spokeswoman says it falls to staff at individual hospitals to check if a patient is eligible.

“Checking the eligibility of patients is the responsibility of all health providers who administer government-funded care.

“People can expect to be asked to prove their eligibility, especially if the provider is seeing them for the first time.

“The government strongly recommends you get comprehensive travel insurance with health cover if you are not eligible for subsidised healthcare.”

Marlborough App Logo
Marlborough App
Marlborough App is owned by Top South Media. a locally owned media company.