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Half a Million Kiwis Falling Through Cracks

'Half a million New Zealanders who have pulled out of private health insurance because they can no longer afford high premiums are caught between a rock and a hard place,' Alliance spokesperson on health Phillida Bunkle said today.

'They are afraid to rely on a down-graded, under resourced public health system, and yet they can't afford to pay ever increasing premiums to private health insurers. She was responding to a new report from Health Funds Association of New Zealand which shows that half a million New Zealanders have pulled out of health insurance since 1990. Insurance company premiums rose in the early 1990s by as much as 20% in some cases.

'Most people insure to cover the high costs of primary heath, like visits to the GP. 'You wouldn't need insurance if the Alliance was in government, because our policy is to make GP visits free for all New Zealanders.

'Insurance companies tend to increase premiums for people who are most likely to get sick, like the elderly and the chronically sick, to exclude them.

'These people make up a big percentage of that half a million who can no longer afford high premiums.'

Alli ance policy is to provide universal health care so that all New Zealanders are covered when they need it, not when they least need it.

'Many people have become disillusioned with private health insurance when they find out their cover is not really cover at all. People like Derek Hunter, who with the help of the Alliance, took his insurance companies to the Commerce Commission. 'He won his case against Atna and Southern Cross because they only paid for about 20%- 30% of his health costs, rather than the 80% he understood he was insured for. Now these companies have to raise their premiums to provide the full cover they promise. It's a vicious cycle.

'All New Zealanders should be able to choose a prompt and quality service in the public sector, rather than risk the pitfalls of private insurance.

'The Alliance in government would make sure that everyone had the choice of a decent public health service,' said Phillida.

ends

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