ACC - which began as the Accident Compensation Corporation in 1974 -is the healthcare scheme that covers injuries in New Zealand. I’ve just had my second injury since moving, and I absolutely love how simple this program works. First off, ACC is applicable to everyone, even visitors! If it is an accident and it happens in New Zealand, ACC will come into play. Secondly, it is no-fault coverage, so even if you were doing something stupid or silly (like getting drunk and falling down some stairs, breaking your leg) ACC will help you.
ACC will cover physical injuries, injuries caused by treatment, injuries that come on gradually from work, mental injuries, sexual violence needs, and injuries to prosthesis and implants. In short, if there was an incident where you noticed something happening to you that caused pain and/or damage, it is likely covered by ACC. My first injury was a shoulder injury in yoga. My second injury is a back injury as a result of lifting and holding a screaming, irrational 4 year old who was throwing a complete hissy fit when we were picking her brother up from basketball practice.
For the record, the temper tantrum was a result of my inability to lock a bathroom stall door from the outside. Holding the door closed with my foot was wildly offensive, and she started to escalate the temper tantrum to the point of wanting to run around the basketball court naked. It was either scoop up and wrangle this crazy kid or be “that parent with the naked, crying girl.” I chose option A, and immediately regretted it when my back started to seize up. Alas, I was left holding a writhing 4 year old for the next 20 minutes while we waited for her brother to finish up. The next day I could barely get out of bed. Anyway, you get the point - no fault injuries includes insane situations like this one.
ACC doesn’t cover all of everything. If you end up in the emergency room needing stitches or with a broken leg, it will cover that visit, but if it is something less urgent, it may only cover part of the cost of treatment. The chiropractor I visit, for example, charges NZ$55 (US$37) for a regular visit, and NZ$30 (US$20) for an ACC supported visit. What’s great is that I know ahead of time what I’m going to be charged. There aren’t any surprises. Any healthcare provider you visit will have a menu of costs available to you prior to treatment. There is information online that spells out exactly what ACC covers. My favorite flowchart is this one:
It’s self explanatory, I think. I got an ultrasound of my shoulder and was charged nothing for that test. It was wonderful to have accurate images so the physical therapist I visited knew exactly what was going on. (He charged NZ$35 [US$24] per half hour session, btw.)
When I’ve had an injury, I simply make an appointment with the appropriate healthcare provider and fill out a simple one page form at the office. It asks for basic information, like where the injury to place and what happened. There’s only two lines to give an explanation, so a lot of detail isn’t needed. Last night I visited my chiropractor at 4:40 and filled out at ACC form around 5:00. At 6:57 pm, I received this text message:
I know the paperwork was filed correctly, and I am now in the system. I hope I was able to give the person reviewing the claims a little chuckle with my description of my daughter at the time of the accident.
ACC doesn’t cover things related to illness or something not from an injury. So a trip to the hospital with an appendicitis? Not covered by ACC. Arthritis from getting old? Not covered. The healthcare providers seem to have a good idea if something is covered or not and they are generally quick to suggest filling out an ACC form if they think you qualify. There doesn’t appear to be any type of provider stigma if you are using ACC or not.
On a side note, because ACC covers expenses related to accidents, private health insurance doesn’t provide duplicate coverage. This is one of the ways insurance is able to stay so affordable in New Zealand. To learn more about healthcare differences, check out this post.
Hopefully you’ll never need ACC, but if you do, you’ll be shocked at how smooth the whole process is, especially if you’re from the US!