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Health Insurance Numbers Expected To Rise

Health Insurers predict that the ‘bad news for health budget will see more New Zealanders take up private health insurance, despite the Government’s stated intention to reduce waiting lists in public hospitals for non-acute surgery.

Health Funds Association Executive Director Andrea Pettett said: “The HFANZ supports the booking system for waiting lists and the greater transparency that it brings. However, queuing for health services inevitably means that people have to wait a long time for treatment and many will not meet the criteria for treatment. With health insurance people can access the medical care they need when they need it.”

“With more than fifty-five thousand people on waiting lists for more than six months, a shortage of skilled medical staff and no prospect of improved treatment under existing funding limits – public hospitals are experiencing a time of crisis.”

“We believe that many New Zealanders should be reconsidering their commitment to health insurance at a time when many DHB’s have said that they will need to review the scope and number of services they can provide.

Demand for public hospital services continues to grow and the Association of Medical Specialists claims there will be no easing of waiting lists.

“The Government wants no one to wait more than six months for their first specialist assessment and, if they are offered publicly funded treatment, no more than a further six months for this treatment to occur. However, it is unlikely that these guidelines will be met.

Earlier this month the Ministry of Health reported that 13,255 people were on Residual Waiting Lists (not booked & no certainty), and that the total number of people under ‘active review’ (where they only receive treatment if their condition deteriorates or more funding becomes available) has increased to 24,430.

“Anyone considering forgoing their health insurance and instead trying to self-insure would be taking a huge risk. While some medical care costs are quite manageable, even for people on modest incomes, most are too expensive.”
Most New Zealanders would not have sufficient savings to meet the costs required for the expensive medical procedures that are covered by health insurance and, according to Ms Pettett, more New Zealanders are taking out health insurance.

“Recent data shows that the number of people with health insurance in March 1999 was around 1,310,000 compared to 1,331,000 in March 2001 – an increase of nearly 21,000 insured in a year.

“Health Insurance premiums had increased over the last decade due to an increase in the number and types of medical services funded by health insurers. It is likely that premiums will rise as the population ages, the costs of medical care rise, and the application of new and existing medical technology is extended to a wider group”.

“The public health system is primarily geared to deliver acute (urgent) services, and in so doing rations access to non-urgent or elective surgery. Health insurers complement the public health system by covering the cost of many semi-acute and non-urgent but necessary procedures.

“Well in excess of 1.3 million New Zealanders now hold private Health Insurance. This represents a significant saving for the public health system and we believe it is also a strong indicator of the on-going need for private health insurance.

“We also believe that the introduction of a tax incentive on health insurance premiums, similar to that introduced by the Australian Government last year, is worthy of consideration and would help improve access to healthcare in this country.”

Ms Pettett said, both the World Health Organisation and the World Bank had advocated a greater co-operation between public and private health sectors. She believes that it is time this message was taken onboard in this country.

“New Zealand needs a strong public health system, supported by a complementary private health insurance sector, if people are to get the healthcare they require, when they most need it.”


ENDS

For Further information, please contact:

Andrea Pettett
Executive Director
Health Funds Association of New Zealand Inc.
Telephone: 04 499 0834
Mobile: 021 667 922
Email: andrea@healthfunds.org.nz

2.


COSTS OF COMMON PROCEDURES COVERED BY HEALTH INSURANCE*

Disease Category
Procedure Average Cost

Cardiovascular Cardiac bypass $25,600
Cardiovascular Angiogram $2,800
Cardiovascular Angioplasty $12,000
Genito-urinary Total hysterectomy $5,500
Genito-urinary Laparoscopic hysterectomy $7,200
Genito-urinary Prostatectomy $4,500
Cancer Wide excision of tumour $700
Cancer Colonoscopy $950
Cancer Radical mastectomy $4,700
Digestive Gastroscopy $500
Digestive Laparoscopic cholecystectomy $5,000
Musculoskeletal Total hip replacement $12,400
Musculoskeletal Total knee replacement $12,400
Sensory Organ Cataract removal $2,400


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