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Health insurance coverage rises

Health insurance coverage rises

The number of New Zealanders with private health insurance cover has continued to increase over the past year, along with the total value of claims paid, according to data released today by the Health Funds Association (HFANZ).

Despite paying healthcare claims of over $1 billion in the year to the end of September, the industry says it could be playing a much larger role in funding New Zealand’s healthcare costs if the Government was more open to recognising its strategic value.

HFANZ chief executive Roger Styles said successive governments had largely ignored the potential contribution from private health financing, despite increasing public funding difficulties.

He said recent research by NZIER suggested that health insurance could be funding up to $2-3 billion per annum in healthcare costs if New Zealand could match the levels of countries with similar health systems who harnessed private funding better.

“Given the current and forecast state of public health funding, it would seem obvious that some strategic thought should go into growing alternative health funding sources. Looking to develop more robust private funding of healthcare can only help relieve public funding pressures and improve overall health outcomes,” Mr Styles said.

He said he believed the Government’s draft health strategy, released last week, needed to give more prominence to growing private health funding to help counter the looming public funding shortfalls.

“If we had a more strategic approach to health financing, then we’d already be looking at the type of initiatives in the Affordable Healthcare Bill – a NZ First member’s bill currently before Parliament – such as getting rid of fringe benefit tax on employer-funded health insurance for their staff,” he said.

HFANZ statistics for the September quarter showed an increase of 3400 lives covered, bringing the total number of New Zealanders with health insurance to 1.337 million. On an annual basis, lives covered increased by 4600, or 0.3 percent, for the year ending September 2015.

Total claims paid amounted to $1.023 billion for the year ending September 30, 2015 – up 4.9 percent on the previous 12 months. Claims paid for the September quarter were $274 million, up 4.1 percent.

ENDS

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