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$500K cover for Kiwis needing innovative cancer treatments

Media Release: Embargoed to 5.00pm, Wednesday 30 September

New $500K cover for Kiwis needing innovative cancer treatments

30 September, 2015 – New Zealanders will now have enhanced access to new anti-cancer drugs the medical profession is hailing as a “once-in-a-generation” advance in oncology treatment.

AIA New Zealand today unveiled a new health insurance package which will make these new cancer immunotherapy drugs more accessible to New Zealand families by providing coverage of up to $500,000.

Chief executive Natalie Cameron says the new Real Health policy is a comprehensive product designed to provide up to $500,000 cover for surgical and non-surgical treatments.

In a global environment of rapidly escalating health costs, it is imperative that insurers address the affordability of new generation anti-cancer treatments and those on the near-term horizon, Cameron says.

“New Zealanders ought to have access to cancer immunotherapy medicines if they want and need them, and AIA’s new Real Health product gives them this choice,” she says. “Real Health offers cover for cancer care from diagnosis and treatment, through to recovery and potential cure.”

Doctors are hailing cancer immunotherapy drugs, which are effective in more than 50% of skin and bowel cancer cases, as a new pillar in oncology treatment but are decrying the cost of the drugs as precluding all patients but the very wealthy.

Cancer immunotherapy drugs are being trialled globally, and the efficacy of the treatment is such that some drugs are already available – but at a cost.

Melanoma and lung cancer drug Opdiva costs $235,000 for a year of treatment; Yervoy (previously treated or newly diagnosed advanced melanoma) is $204,000 for a 12-week course; and advanced prostate cancer drug Provenge requires an outlay of $146,000 per patient.

Pharmac’s latest bid for more budget funding, stagnant for the past five years, has been rejected and Cameron says the private sector needs to provide new funding solutions so that saveable lives are not lost.

The Affordable Healthcare Bill, introduced by NZ First to boost take-up of private health insurance, reflects how New Zealanders are increasingly being priced out of the health market, says Cameron.

“Kiwis already cannot access a range of innovative medicines and treatment, compared to Australia, and funding constraints means national drug-buying agency Pharmac will not be able to afford the new range of anti-cancer drugs,” she says. “The insurance industry has an important role to play in providing access to non-Pharmac drugs, such as cancer immunotherapy medicines.”

Spending on healthcare has more than doubled during the past 60 years and on the present trajectory would account for nearly a third of all Government spending by 2050, according to Treasury forecasts. Research by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research estimates that private health insurers could be funding up to three times the present level of healthcare if coverage extended to the same level as France, where 96% of the population have insurance.

“We are all concerned about the escalating costs of new generation drugs, particularly for oncology,” comments Cameron. “With a raft of new drugs in trials, there is great uncertainty around the future cost of the next generation of medicines.

“What we can say for certain is the cost is increasing rapidly, which is why we have lifted AIA’s cover to $500,000. Insurance is all about managing risk and we want to future-proof families’ risk so that they will be able to afford life-saving treatment.”

Cameron says AIA’s Real Health policy will make a real difference to ordinary New Zealanders who may not otherwise be able to afford the latest cancer immunotherapy medicines. .

“We’re serious about investing in New Zealanders’ health and this is the first of a number of innovative initiatives that we will unveil in the coming year,” she says.


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