Kiwis not being denied free healthcare in Australia, authorities say

Kiwis living in Australia have reported being told they have lost access to free healthcare services. (Photo: Mark Metcalfe)

06 October 2016

Sam Sachdeva – Stuff

Kiwis living in Australia have reported being told they have lost access to free healthcare services.

Bureaucratic requirements, not a law change, are behind reports of Kiwis being cut off from access to free healthcare in Australia, according to authorities across the ditch.

A number of Kiwi expats have complained of being told they had lost access to Medicare after applying for a change of visa status and being rejected, despite all New Zealand citizens being eligible.

Brisbane resident Nicole Forbes-Hood was among those caught up in the problems after her son Cameron, 13, had his application for permanent residency refused in January due to his autism.

After returning from a trip to New Zealand, the family received a letter stating Cameron was no longer entitled to Medicare because his visa status had changed, “which was rubbish”.

After taking time out of her job to deal with both immigration and Medicare, she received a temporary access card for her son – but also temporary cards for herself and her husband, who are both Australian citizens.

“We were pushed from one department to the other – they refused to talk to each other, and just placed blame on each other’s departments.”

After spending hours on the phone ahead of an MRI scan appointment for Cameron, Forbes-Hood contacted her local MP who helped to resolve the situation.

“I know other cases where this has happened and it’s only because of our fight for permanent residency for Cameron that I actually know my rights.

“I could have very easily, if I didn’t know that, walked away and said ‘OK well fine, maybe there have been changes’, and just taken Medicare’s word for it.”

The situation had been “incredibly stressful” given Cameron’s upcoming appointment, while it was “another kick in the teeth” for the rights of Kiwis living in Australia, she said.

Visa ‘Doesn’t fit in boxes’

Oz Kiwi advocacy group spokeswoman Joanne Cox said the problems were likely to do with the unique status of the Special Category Visa (SCV) which many Kiwis had, which “doesn’t fit in boxes”.

“They do what they normally do when they’re processing or dealing with these cases, and it just happens to be the wrong answer.”

Other temporary residents who applied for permanent residency would go onto a “bridging visa” which meant they were ineligible for Medicare, but that was not the case for Kiwi SCV holders.

Cox said there may also have been changes in data sharing between government departments.

The group had only heard of “a very small number” who had been affected, but it was possible others had faced the same problems but simply moved on.

No Changes To Eligibility

In a statement Australian Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen confirmed there had been no changes to New Zealanders’ Medicare eligibility.

The concerns appeared to be related to “administrative requirements” which were triggered when a person’s permanent residency status changed, with a letter sent out requiring them to provide documents confirming their eligibility.

“If they do not provide these documents within 30 days, their Medicare card will be cancelled and they will need to contact us with the required documents to have it reinstated.”

[Read the Stuff article].

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