$18m boost for Kiwis travelling to health treatment

The coalition Government is delivering an $18 million boost to New Zealanders needing to travel for specialist health treatment, Health Minister Dr Shane Reti says.

“These changes are long overdue – the National Travel Assistance (NTA) scheme saw its last increase to mileage and accommodation rates way back in 2009.

 “During a cost-of-living crisis, it’s really important to support this group of Kiwis with increased assistance in their time of need.  I’m very pleased to announce a number of changes including:

  • increased mileage and accommodation rates
  • easier pre-payment and claiming options
  • eligibility changes to better target those in need
  • better promotion and awareness of the scheme

 “We know the NTA provides critical financial assistance for people who need to travel for treatments like cancer, renal dialysis, diagnostics or other complex care that can’t be provided locally.

 “We also know outdated reimbursement rates, a bureaucratic claims process and local variations have seen some New Zealanders unable to access it properly.

 “As a result, because some families can’t afford the upfront costs, they delay treatment, or choose less effective local treatment. That’s unacceptable and needed addressing. This is an incremental increase towards a time when we can progress further.

 “The coalition Government has already committed to delivering better health outcomes for New Zealanders by improving access to medicines and other treatments.

 “So, also removing barriers that prevent people from receiving treatment is a no-brainer. We expect around 4,500 New Zealanders to benefit.

 Specifics in the scheme changes being announced today include:

  •  Mileage rates rising from 28c to 34c a kilometre and nightly accommodation rates from $100 to $140 a night.
  •  The rate for those staying with friends or whānau will increase from $25 to $35 a night.
  •  More flexible payment options, including pre-payment and the ability to do more online, will also be piloted and phased in. While some districts offer pre-payment options, most whānau currently need to fill out paper-based forms to seek reimbursement after travelling.

 “I recognise that this boost is long overdue. I also want to acknowledge the advocacy of the Cancer Society and other key NGOs who have pushed for change.

 “They will now be able to work with Health New Zealand – Te Whatu Ora to raise awareness of the increased assistance available,” Dr Reti says.

 The changes will be delivered in tranches, with the rate increases and an easier email claiming option first up from 1 April 2024.