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Health Insurance Industry Welcomes Affordable Healthcare

February 28, 2013

Health Insurance Industry Welcomes Affordable Healthcare Bill

The Health Funds Association (HFANZ) today welcomed the announcement of a New Zealand First member’s bill proposing:
• A 25 percent health insurance rebate for people aged over 65.
• The removal of fringe benefit tax from health insurance to incentivise employers to include health insurance in salary packages.

The Affordable Healthcare Bill, unveiled by NZ First today, aims to encourage people to contribute to their elective (non-urgent) healthcare costs in a way that is consistent with supporting the public health system.

HFANZ chief executive Roger Styles said this would help sustain the country’s health system in the face of increasing costs, overstretched resources and an ageing population.

“The proposals in the Bill are forward-thinking. We have advocated for some time measures which can help restore balance in our health system. The initiatives in this Bill have the potential to save hundreds of millions of dollars in public sector health costs over the next decade and increase workplace productivity.

“The industry has been concerned about the impact – particularly on employers and the elderly – of medical health inflation, so measures that go some way towards addressing this and helping more people access or maintain health insurance are welcome,” he said.

The Bill states that if more people aged 65 and over maintained their health insurance, they could have greater choice of elective surgery and shorter waiting times. It proposes a 25 percent rebate on premiums, up to a maximum of $500 a year, to be paid by the Ministry of Social Development direct to SuperGold cardholders.

For those of working age, the Bill encourages more employer-funded health insurance by scrapping FBT on workplace health plans. This also aligns FBT treatment of health insurance with insurance under the ACC scheme.

Mr Styles said many employers chose to subsidise health insurance for their staff.

“They are not just being a good employer. There are clear, documented benefits to those employers from having a healthier workforce, who are able to access prompt medical and surgical treatment when they require it, and be back to work sooner.”

He said the long-term benefits of both proposals were significant. Encouraging retention of health insurance into old age would ease the pressure on public hospital resources and help address the unsustainable growth of public sector spending for elective procedures. Encouraging more employers to offer workplace health plans would help grow the overall pool of people with health cover and increase productivity.

“Our estimates suggest any fiscal costs will be substantially offset by savings in the public health sector over the medium term,” he said.


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