Health insurance in New Zealand: Is it free for children?

Co-Author: Michelle Norton

Money-smart parents are always on the lookout for a child-friendly discount, which is why offers such as, “kids stay and eat free” deals are so popular during the school holidays. Finding ways to save some cash on costly healthcare is also often appealing.

The good news is that, in some cases, deals for children are extended to healthcare and discounts for the family on children’s health insurance. In New Zealand, children under the age of 13 are eligible for free GP visits, so you might be asking yourself why you would need health insurance for children. Unfortunately, there are many health conditions children potentially face and the treatments can come with a pretty hefty price tag, not to mention the possibility of a long waiting list.

The Southern Cross Health Society website lists a number of possible ailments and procedures that could set back parents thousands of dollars.


Condition   Procedures  Average costs  
Ear infections  Grommets – unilateral and bilateral   $1,400 – $2,800 
Eye squint   Strabismus surgery   $3,200 – $6,700 
Ongoing throat infections   Tonsillectomy   $3,200 – $4,300 



So, is health insurance for children free in New Zealand?

Yes, and no. It really depends on the policy, so it is a good idea to shop around for policies and to compare benefits and prices. For example, Southern Cross Health Society charges for the first two children as part of a family health insurance policy, but then cover for additional children is free.

Health insurance policies may also include free cover for babies up to the age of six months, so make sure you check the fine print of all health insurance for children policies.

Kids’ Private Health Insurance: What to look out for

So, you ask: is there anything in the fine print you should know about? Well, the technical mumbo-jumbo defines a dependent child as “an unmarried person under the age of 18 years”. Individual health funds can, however, extend that age limit for dependent children up to age 25, providing that the child is still a full-time student and remains unmarried. If you’re a couple thinking about having your first child, you should also be aware that a 12-month waiting period usually has to be served before benefits can be claimed on behalf of the child so it’s very important to modify your health insurance cover before you start trying to conceive.

Each health insurance fund has different offers so here are a few questions to ask when shopping around for hospital and extras cover:

  • At what age will my kids no longer be covered by our family health insurance? Are there any conditions?
  • Do I have to pay an excess if my child is admitted to hospital?
  • Are there any no-gap extras benefits for kids?

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