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Further delays by Southern Cross Acknowledged

Responding today to the admission by Southern Cross Healthcare that the backlog in settling claims will not be cleared for at least another month, Andrew Blair, President of the New Zealand Private Hospitals Association expressed further disappointment in the lacklustre performance of the country’s largest health insurer.

“The Association and our member Hospitals are satisfied with the assurances that Southern Cross is now giving that extra resources will have the backlog cleared by the end of February.” Mr Blair said. “It is very disappointing however that so much time has passed before these measures were taken. Southern Cross were aware of the problem months ago and have been negligent in not taking measures to improve the situation sooner. The problem should never had been allowed to develop to the degree that it has and individual policy holders and health providers should not have been required to bear the burden of Southern Cross’s difficulties for so long.”

“We are pleased to learn that Southern Cross have increased the number of claims staff even further and we take some comfort from their ongoing reassurances.” Mr Blair said. “However we were previously told that the situation would be settled by the end of January and that has proven not to be the case. We trust that on this occasion, the latest assurances received from Southern Cross will be delivered upon.”

The New Zealand Private Hospitals Association is aware of speculation that the poor performance in claims settlement may be due to factors beyond computer problems but accepts the personal assurances received from the Chief Executive, Roger Bowie, that the delays are entirely due to computer processing difficulties. “Southern Cross has continually assured us that they are not in financial difficulty and we wish to accept that position and simply see the resources deployed that are necessary to clear the claims back-log in the minimum possible time.” Mr Blair said.

Mr Blair said that a strong and sustainable private health sector was vital for New Zealand and as the dominant provider of health insurance it was important that Southern Cross fixed its problems promptly to ensure that the confidence of policy holders and providers was not lost. If this situation continues for much longer then it is highly likely that some policy holders will choose to either move to other insurers or exit health insurance altogether. That would place an even greater burden on an already overstretched public health system. ……..Ends

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