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Travel Assitance Q&A

Q&A

Why is travel assistance available for specialist services?
It is impossible for the Health System to have every type of specialist at every hospital because New Zealand’s population is so spread out. There are some specialties that are only available at one national centre or a handful of regional centres. The government recognises that people need to have good access to the necessary specialist services even if they are not available locally. This is why the government provides assistance towards helping people meet the costs of travel to specialists.

What will it mean for existing clients?
From August existing clients can expect to be notified by mail about the changes. People who now claim assistance through their District Health Board will have to claim through HealthPAC from 1 January. Some clients can expect changes to what is reimbursed.

Will reimbursement cover the full cost of travel?
People will be able to claim the full cost of public transport and/or a contribution towards private mileage or accommodation. The scheme cannot cover all the costs associated with travel because the limited funding available needs to be prioritised among a range of needs in the health system. Providing a contribution towards travel costs in a nationally consistent manner to people who need it most is considered a good compromise.

What trips will I be able to claim travel assistance for?
You can claim assistance for travel to appointments following two types of referrals if you meet the eligibility criteria in the policy (e.g. distance requirements). If you have a referral from a publicly funded specialist (e.g. at your local hospital) for an appointment with another publicly funded specialist service (e.g. a national specialty centre) you can claim assistance for travel. If a specialist (at any public facility) says you need to visit him or her again you will also be able to claim assistance.

What are the main changes to eligibility in the new policy?
people aged 16 and 17 will be eligible for the same (higher) level of assistance as children under 16
a higher level of assistance will be available for children with a Community Services Card
people referred by a publicly funded specialist to publicly funded specialist services more than 350 km away from their homes will be eligible for assistance, regardless of how often they travel and even if they do not have a Community Services Card
people who have to visit specialist services more than 25 times in two months will be eligible for assistance regardless of how far they have to travel and even if they do not have a Community Services Card.

Were my views represented when the policy was written?
National community consultation was carried out in 2000. The feedback from the consultation was incorporated in the policy review. A summary of the feedback received following the consultation is available on the Ministry of Health’s website.

How can I find out more?
A toll free number will be able to provide information about the scheme closer to the time. Training seminars and manuals will be available for hospital social workers and other staff who will need to advise clients on the scheme from October. When the new scheme begins your hospital social worker will be able to provide brochures and registration forms.

ENDS

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