Thursday, March 4, 2010

public health care in new zealand

Lest you think our life a little too idyllic, the kids had ear infections and a raspy cough.

After dealing with fussy kids and hoping they would get better, I took them to the doctor this morning. About two weeks ago, we registered with a local doctor, who was recommended by our neighbor Kate. I call the office this morning at 8am and set up an appointment for 9am (they said I could have come in sooner, but that was the soonest I could get us all fed and dressed). I waited for less than 10 mins in the waiting room and was then invited to the doctor's office by the doctor himself. His examining room and office were in the same room. He watched the kids playing with the toys in the room for a while, asked a couple questions about what bought us to New Zealand, and then examined the babies. He didn't put them up on the table but just kneeled beside them on the carpet. He was patient and very attentive. He asked about their health history and had the nurse make photo copies of their records. He spent more than 20 mins with us, and I felt as though he had all the time in the world to talk with us. He even went outside with us to show the babies the nurse's dog that was hanging out in the backyard. The visit cost $30 NZ (about $21 US). In the U.S., I would have spent $40 on co-pays (one $20 co-pay for each kid).

We walked across the street to the pharmacy (chemist) to fill the prescription. The babies were wiggly and wanted to get into everything. The owner of the pharmacy came out and played with Max and showed him the bucket of toys they had for kids. After five mins, the prescription was ready, and there was no charge or co-pay for the prescriptions. We had three prescriptions filled (two orders of amoxicillin, one for each kid, and an order of liquid albuterol for the cough/weezing). In the U.S., I would have spent around $15-25 for each prescription.

Here they are looking cute, as if all they do is sit around reading books when they are sick. In reality they stay up all night screaming and refuse to nap, which then causes them (and me) to be quite irritable.

There is a lot of debate in the U.S. right now about reforming the health care system. I have heard a lot of people talk about long waits and or increased taxes that would come with "socialized medicine".

Today was the first time I had been to a doctor in New Zealand (which has a national public health care system, under which we are covered as part of our work visa), and my experience with the doctor was better than any doctor's visit that I have had with Maya and Max (and I really liked my pediatrician in Texas). I was amazed by the short wait time and the individual care we received from the doctor. On top of that, I spent 20% of the out-of-pocket expenses of what I would have in the U.S. (and we had really great coverage on our health insurance policy while in Texas). Sure, I've got limited experience at this point, but so far I'm liking the public health care.

Any thoughts or comments?


  1. sounds lovely. too bad we seem to skip the best practices model when talking about health reform. it seems to me we(read:ethnocentric americans)don't seem to see beyond our own preconceived notions of cost, care, insurance, and health to learn from the rest of the developed world ;)

    glad your kiddos are on the mend and that you are all getting settled in. i really would love to visit one of these days.

  2. Wait until you have lived there for a while and have visited the doctor more. I never had that great of experience living in a country with socialized medicine and went a lot to the doctor. I'm definitely not saying it's all bad. But give it a few more visits. But maybe NZ really has it down...

  3. The kids do look so innocent lying in bed with their books! It's good we don't take pics of our kids in the middle of the night when they are being little monsters!
    I'm glad your trip to the dr. went well. Sounds like a good experience was had by all. My inlaws are from Canada & they tell horror stories about the health care they grew up with. But I'm glad you didn't have a bad experience. Maybe it has to do with the density of the population? Don't know, just speculating.
    Hope the kids are feeling better!!!

  4. Most of us in the USA have been brainwashed into thinking that we have the best healthcare in the world. Some like Patsy can't even get coverage until she gets old enough to be covered by our socialized medical system called Medicare. That will be in another 29 months. In the meantime we hope to be covered by the church medical insurance (guaranteed while we serve a mission). Maybe by then we will have some changes to our GREAT system. I don't sound too biter do I?